April 13, 2012

Wilms’ tumors differ in developing nations

In addition to limited health care resources, biological factors may play a role in the poor survival of children with a common kidney cancer in developing nations.


Diseases that are treatable in developed nations are often lethal in developing countries. For Wilms’ tumor, the most common childhood kidney cancer, survival rates in developed countries exceed 90 percent – but in developing nations, survival can be as low as 35 percent.

Lack of adequate health care resources is largely responsible for this survival disparity, but Andrew Murphy, M.D., Jason Axt, M.D., and colleagues suspected that biological factors may also contribute. The researchers assessed various cellular and molecular features in tumor samples from 15 Kenyan children and compared the results to those from North American Wilms’ tumor samples.

They report in the International Journal of Cancer that Kenyan Wilms’ tumors exhibit a predominance of immature cells (a feature of aggressiveness), cellular features of treatment resistance, and a molecular signature distinct from that of North American tumors.

The results suggest that these biological features may contribute to the poor outcomes in developing countries and that such tumors may require different treatment approaches than those of developed nations.

The research was funded by grants from the National Center for Research Resources and the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Defense.