Genetics & Genomics

April 6, 2021

Genetic differences in Wilms tumor

Unique somatic gene mutations may contribute to racial disparities in the incidence of Wilms tumor — the most common childhood kidney cancer.

by Leigh MacMillan

Wilms tumor (WT) — the most common childhood kidney cancer — disproportionately impacts Black children worldwide. Genetic differences in WT specimens that may contribute to this disparity are not clear. 

Annie Apple, Harold Lovvorn III, MD, and colleagues compared clinical features and genetic mutations by race in the TARGET (Therapeutically Applied Research to Generate Effective Treatments) database, a nationwide initiative to determine molecular changes that drive childhood cancers.

Among patients with WT in TARGET, they found that Black children were over-represented compared to U.S. Census data. Three of 37 genes recurrently involved in WT differed by race, with ACTB and DICER1 mutations more frequent in samples from Black children and DGCR8 mutations more common in samples from white children. 

The findings, reported in the Journal of Pediatric Surgery, suggest that unique, somatic gene mutations may contribute to WT race disparity. Understanding differences that impact WT development and treatment resistance will identify targets for personalized treatments to improve outcomes and reduce health disparities.

This research was supported through the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine Office of Medical Student Research.