A Snapshot of Kidney Cancer
Incidence and Mortality
Kidney cancer incidence has increased over the past several decades, but recent data suggest that incidence rates may be reaching a plateau. The increase in incidence since the 1990s reflects a rapid increase in early-stage disease that has been attributed in part to incidental diagnosis during abdominal imaging and may not represent a true increase in cancer occurrence. The overall mortality rate from kidney cancer remained relatively steady over much of the past two decades but recently has begun to decrease. Kidney cancer incidence and mortality rates are more than twice as high in men as in women. American Indians/Alaska Natives have higher kidney cancer incidence and mortality rates than any other racial/ethnic groups in the United States.
The main risk factors for kidney cancer are smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, and having certain inherited conditions. There are no recommended screening tests for kidney cancer. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can be used to look for kidney cancer in people with genetic conditions that place them at high risk. Standard treatments for kidney cancer include surgery, embolization, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapy.
It is estimated that approximately $3.8 billion1 is spent in the United States each year on kidney cancer treatment.
Examples of NCI Activities Relevant to Kidney Cancer
- The Urologic Oncology Branch conducts basic and clinical research on the detection, prevention, and treatment of genitourinary cancers. The branch is focused on studying genes involved in the initiation and progression of kidney and prostate cancers.
- NCI's Genitourinary Malignancies Center of Excellence encourages collaboration between scientists studying genitourinary cancers, promotes opportunities for research, leverages research tools and resources, and trains young investigators.
- The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project is systematically identifying the major genomic changes involved in more than 20 cancers using state-of-the-art genomic analysis technologies. Recently published results from TCGA reveal a connection between how tumor cells use energy from metabolic processes and the aggressiveness of the most common form of kidney cancer, clear cell renal cell carcinoma. [PubMed Abstract]
- NCI supports the Phase III Randomized Study of Everolimus versus Placebo in Patients with Renal Cell Carcinoma Who Have Undergone Nephrectomy or Partial Nephrectomy, a clinical trial that is studying everolimus as an adjuvant therapy for patients with localized kidney cancer who have undergone surgery.
- The Phase I Study of Intravenous Recombinant Human IL-15 in Adults with Refractory Metastatic Malignant Melanoma and Metastatic Renal Cell Cancer is a first-in-humans study of a promising immunotherapy agent called interleukin-15 (IL-15) that was developed and produced through NCI's Developmental Therapeutics Program.
- One Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in kidney cancer supports research focused on identifying biomarkers for early detection, monitoring, and prediction of treatment outcomes; developing novel immune and targeted therapies; and improving the understanding and treatment of kidney cancer that is resistant to standard therapies.
Selected Advances in Kidney Cancer Research
- African-American patients with renal cell carcinoma had poorer survival rates than whites regardless of sex, age, time period of diagnosis, tumor stage or size, histological subtype, or surgical treatment. Published November 2012. [PubMed Abstract]
- The natural plant extract, englerin A, activates a protein that promotes glucose dependence while inhibiting glucose uptake, effectively starving renal cancer cells. Published January 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- Racial/ethnic differences affect the risk of developing kidney or prostate cancer after a kidney transplant. Published January 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
- Although findings from animal experiments suggested that sunitinib may promote tumor invasiveness, patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma showed no such effect; thus sunitinib, and probably similar drugs, do not accelerate tumor growth in humans. Published February 2013. [Pubmed Abstract]
- See this PubMed list of selected free full-text journal articles on NCI-supported research relevant to kidney cancer. You can also search PubMed for additional scientific articles or to complete a search tutorial.
Trends in NCI Funding for Kidney Cancer Research
The National Cancer Institute's (NCI) investment2 in kidney cancer research increased from $43.4 million in fiscal year (FY) 2008 to $49.0 million in FY 2012. In addition to this funding, NCI supported $7.6 million in FY 2009 and FY 2010 in kidney cancer research using funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).3
Additional Resources for Kidney Cancer
- What You Need To Know About™ Kidney Cancer
Describes possible risks, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for someone recently diagnosed with kidney cancer.
- Kidney Cancer Home Page
NCI's gateway for information about kidney cancer.
- Wilms Tumor and Other Childhood Kidney Tumors Home Page
NCI's gateway for information about Wilms tumor.
- Renal Cell Cancer Treatment (PDQ®)
Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of renal cell cancer.
- Wilms Tumor and Other Childhood Kidney Tumors Treatment (PDQ®)
Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of Wilms tumor.
- Transitional Cell Cancer of the Renal Pelvis and Ureter Treatment (PDQ®)
Expert-reviewed information summary about the treatment of renal pelvis and ureter transitional cell cancer.
- Clinical Trials for Kidney Cancer
- Clinical Trials for Wilms Tumor
- Clinical Trials for Transitional Cell Cancer
- 1 Cancer Trends Progress Report, in 2010 dollars.
- 2 The estimated NCI investment is based on funding associated with a broad range of peer-reviewed scientific activities. For additional information on research planning and budgeting at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), see About NIH.
- 3 For more information regarding ARRA funding at NCI, see Recovery Act Funding at NCI.