Surgery is often the first step in treating kidney cancer, and new data from the University of Rochester Medical Center, which contradicts earlier research, questions whether removal of only the tumor (partial nephrectomy) is better than removing the entire kidney (radical nephrectomy).
The decided trend for the past decade has been toward a partial resection in the case of smaller cancers. It was based on several earlier studies suggesting that it's better to save as much kidney tissue as possible, and thus preserve kidney function and reduce the likelihood of kidney failure in the long run. Many physicians inferred that a radical nephrectomy would be worse for kidney cancer patients, due to a concern that even mild or moderate dysfunction in the remaining kidney could lead to an earlier death.
However, the URMC found the opposite to be true: that losing a whole kidney to surgery does not translate into poorer outcomes for patients. In fact, those people who received a partial nephrectomy did not have improved survival, according to the study published this month in European Urology.
"Our data appears to seriously question the assumption that by saving kidney tissue, we are helping patients avoid future kidney failure," said Edward Messing, M.D., chair of Urology at URMC. "It may be that losing kidney tissue from surgery is not the same as losing kidney function from medical diseases like diabetes or hypertension."
The latter point is an important one for patients who're weighing surgical options, Messing added. Often, all types of kidney impairments are lumped into one category. It may be, however, that common medical conditions such as high blood pressure or diabetes take the biggest toll on kidney health. Therefore, if a patient is otherwise healthy and the second kidney is functioning well, he or she can safely consider a radical nephrectomy, if that seems to be the best option for cancer removal, he said.
|Contact: Leslie Orr|
University of Rochester Medical Center