A Snapshot of Kidney Cancer

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Incidence and Mortality

Kidney cancer incidence increased from 1997 to 2008 before leveling off. The increase in incidence since the late 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 has fallen an average of 0.6 percent each year since 2001. Kidney cancer incidence and mortality rates are twice as high in men as in women. American Indians/Alaska Natives have higher kidney cancer incidence and mortality rates than any other racial or ethnic group 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 tests to screen for kidney cancer in people who are not at average risk of this disease. Computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans are used to look for kidney cancer in people with an inherited condition that places them at high risk. Standard treatments for kidney cancer include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, biological therapy, and targeted therapy.

Assuming that incidence and survival rates follow recent trends, it is estimated that $4.8 billion1 will be spent on kidney cancer care in the United States in 2014.

Line graphs showing U.S. Kidney Cancer incidence and mortality per 100,000 by race and gender from 1991-2011.  In 2011, African American males have the highest incidence, followed by white males, African American females, and white females.  In 2011, white males have the highest mortality followed by African American males, African American females, and white females.

Source: Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program and the National Center for Health Statistics. Additional statistics and charts are available at the SEER Web site.

NCI’s Investment in Kidney Cancer Research

To learn more about the research NCI conducts and supports in kidney cancer, visit the NCI Funded Research Portfolio (NFRP). The NFRP includes information about research grants, contract awards, and intramural research projects funded by NCI. When exploring this information, it should be noted that approximately half of the NCI budget supports basic research that may not be specific to one type of cancer. By its nature, basic research cuts across many disease areas, contributing to our knowledge of the underlying biology of cancer and enabling the research community to make advances against many cancer types. For these reasons, the funding levels reported in NFRP may not definitively report all research relevant to a given category.

Pie chart of NCI Kidney Cancer Research Portfolio.  Percentage of total dollars by scientific area.  Fiscal year 2013.  Biology, 14%.  Etiology/causes of cancer, 11%.  Prevention, 1%.  Early detection, diagnosis, and prognosis, 14%.  Treatment, 46%.  Cancer control, survivorship, and outcomes research, 9%.  Scientific model systems, 5%.

Source: NCI Funded Research Portfolio. Only projects with assigned common scientific outline area codes are included. A description of relevant research projects can be found on the NCI Funded Research Portfolio Web site.

Other NCI programs and activities relevant to kidney cancer include:

Selected Advances in Kidney Cancer Research

  • A comprehensive molecular characterization of more than 400 clear cell renal cell carcinoma tumors identified 19 genes with extensive mutations, some of which changed cell metabolism and correlated with poor survival, suggesting new opportunities for therapeutic targets. Published June 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
  • A quantitative proteomics analysis of human renal cell carcinoma cell lines that mimic the cellular features of more and less advanced tumors identified several proteins that are expressed at different levels. Future molecular studies will explore novel hypotheses that stem from this work. Published August 2013. [PubMed Abstract]
  • Hypoxia causes the protein SPOP to move from the nucleus to the cytoplasm in clear cell renal cell carcinoma cell lines, which promotes tumorigenesis; targeted loss of the relocated SPOP in these cells triggers apoptosis, suggesting that SPOP may be a promising therapeutic target. Published March 2014. [PubMed Abstract]
  • A metabolic analysis of 20 primary human clear cell renal cell carcinomas revealed that a protein involved in gluconeogenesis, FBP1, is a uniformly depleted tumor suppressor in clear cell renal cell carcinomas. Published July 2014. [PubMed Abstract]

Additional Resources for Kidney Cancer

  • Posted: November 5, 2014