Histological subtyping and nuclear grading of renal cell carcinoma and their implications for survival: a retrospective nation-wide study of 629 patients

Tomas Gudbjartsson, Sverrir Hardarson, Vigdis Petursdottir, Asgeir Thoroddsen, Jonas Magnusson, Gudmundur V Einarsson
European Urology 2005, 48 (4): 593-600

OBJECTS: The aim of this study was to evaluate the prognostic significance of the current WHO histological subtyping and Fuhrman nuclear grading on the survival of patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC).

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A retrospective population-based study was carried out on all patients with a histopathologically confirmed diagnosis of RCC in Iceland between 1971 and 2000. Fuhrman grade, TNM stage, and survival were evaluated and multivariate analysis applied in order to determine prognostic factors.

RESULTS: Out of 629 patients (387 males, 242 females, mean age 64 years), 558 (88.7%) had clear cell, 53 (8.4%) papillary, and 13 (2.1%) chromophobe RCC. Patient demographics were comparable for the two major subtypes, but chromophobe RCCs were larger in size and were diagnosed at a younger age. Clear cell RCCs were more often of higher grades (G3+G4, 48.4%) and at advanced TNM stages (III+IV, 59.3%) than papillary RCCs (22.6% and 34% respectively, p<0.001). Linear regression analysis showed a strong correlation between grade, tumor size, and stage (p<0.001). Chromophobe RCCs had a better survival in univariate analysis than both papillary and clear cell RCCs (84.6% vs. 66.5% and 54.9% 5-year disease specific survival, p<0.001). However, in the multivariate analysis, only the patient's age, calendar year of diagnosis, TNM stage, and nuclear grade were independent prognostic factors of survival.

CONCLUSION: In this complete nation-wide series nuclear grading is important in predicting survival of patients with RCC. It is strongly related to both tumor size and stage, with stage being by far the strongest prognostic factor. Different histological subtypes confer different survival. However, in spite of the distinctive cytogenetic and molecular characteristics of the subtypes, the survival difference is to a large extent due to differences in grade and particularly stage.

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