Recent Kidney-Cancer Breakthroughs

Scientists have just reported in the journal Nature that theyve discovered a faulty gene linked to more than a third of all kidney cancers. Many in the medical community are saying this breakthrough is the biggest in fighting the disease in two decades. The finding will not only help researchers understand how the cancer develops but may also lead to new treatments and earlier diagnosis.

The exact reason why the gene is damaged or "turned off" has yet to be discovered. However, by identifying the gene, experts hope they will be able to find therapies to target the cancer in the future.

Everyone has the gene, known as PBRM1, but if it gets damaged it can lead to kidney cancer. A mutated PBRM1 was found in around 40 per cent of kidney-cancer victims; this is most significant finding since another mutation, VHL, was discovered 20 years ago. Scientists believe that the two genes together are implicated in the "majority" of kidney cancers.

In adults, the most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma. Other less common types of kidney cancer can occur. Transitional cell carcinoma, which affects the ureters, can also begin in the kidneys. The incidence of kidney cancer seems to be increasing, though it isn't clear why. Many kidney cancers are detected during procedures for other diseases or conditions. Imaging techniques such as computerized tomography (CT) are being used more often, which may lead to the discovery of more kidney cancers.

In the United States, kidney cancer accounts for approximately 3% of all adult cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, about 32,000 new cases are diagnosed and about 12,000 people die from the disease annually. Kidney cancer occurs most often in people between the ages of 50 and 70, and affects men almost twice as often as women.The illness is particularly deadly, as it shows few symptoms until it has advanced to such a level that its virtually untreatable. The two most common signs are an abdominal mass and blood in the urine. Survival rates for tumors found early in their development can be as high as 95 per cent, but that prognosis falls rapidly as tumors grow larger.Smokers develop renal cell carcinoma about twice as often as nonsmokers and develop cancer of the renal pelvis about 4 times as often. Therefore, not smoking is the best way to prevent kidney cancer. In fact, its estimated that the elimination of smoking would reduce the rate of renal the rate of renal cell carcinoma by one-third.Robin Westen is ThirdAges medical reporter. Check for her daily updates. She is the author of Ten Days to Detox: How to look and feel a decade younger.See what others have to say about this story or leave a comment of your own.
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