Types of Kidney Cancer

There are several types of kidney cancer:

Renal Cell Carcinomas 

Renal cell carcinomas (RCCs) comprise about 90 percent of kidney cancer cases, with clear cell renal cell carcinoma making up approximately 70 percent of those.

  • Clear cell renal cell carcinomas (ccRCCs) can be further subdivided according to their molecular genetics into several subtypes. Investigators at UTSW discovered that the BAP1 gene is mutated in 15% of ccRCC and that mutations in BAP1 tend to be mutually exclusive with mutations in PBRM1 (Pena-Llopis et al., Nat Genet 2012). These findings led to the discovery that ccRCC can be classified into 4 subtypes: not mutated, mutated for PBRM1, mutated for BAP1, and a small group of tumors that are mutated for both genes. This classification is important, as these different subtypes are associated with markedly different outcomes.
  • To study the different subtypes of ccRCC, UTSW investigators have genetically engineered mice with the same mutations found in patients. Their study was the first to report the successful generation of a mouse reproducing the genetic events found in human kidney cancer (Wang et al., PNAS 2014). Press Release

Papillary and chromophobe renal cell carcinomas

Papillary and chromophobe renal cell carcinomas – along with a handful of very rare RCC subtypes – account for the remaining 30 percent of RCC cases.

  • UTSW investigators were the first to perform integrated genomic analyses on non-clear cell RCC, including papillary, chromophobe, and translocation carcinomas (Durinck et al., Nat Genet 2015). These discoveries laid the foundation for a classification of these tumors that is based on genetics rather than solely based on their appearance under the microscope.

Non-RCC Kidney Cancers

The approximately 10 percent of non-RCC kidney cancers include transitional cell carcinoma, renal sarcoma, and Wilms’ tumor (nephroblastoma), which affects children.

Lung Cancer Risk

UTSW investigators have also discovered that patients with kidney cancer may have a high predisposition to develop lung cancer. Specifically, lung cancer was diagnosed in 3 percent of patients with kidney cancer that had metastasized to the lungs (Bowman et al., Clin Genitourin Cancer, 2017). Press Release