'Wilms Tumour Research Fund
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The Stages of Wilms Tumour

Also see:
What is Wilms
Wilms Stages
  Wilms Chemotherapy & Treatments
  Future of Wilms Research and Clinical Trials
  Organisations providing help and support

Wilms Tumours are staged depending upon where the tumour has spread in the body and also what features they contain when looked at closely through a microscope. 

Stage I

The tumour is contained within one kidney and can be completely removed by surgery. The tissue layer surrounding the kidney (the renal capsule) is not broken and the cancer has not grown into blood vessels in or next to the kidney. 

About 40% to 45% of all Wilms tumours are stage I.

Stage II

The tumour has grown beyond the kidney, either into nearby fatty tissue or into blood vessels in or near the kidney, but can be completely removed by surgery without any apparent cancer left behind. Lymph nodes do not contain tumor.

About 20% of all Wilms tumours are stage II.

Stage III

This stage refers to Wilms tumours that have spread to the lymph nodes or that may have ruptured or spread to localised tissues or structures. One or more of the following features may be present:

  • The cancer has spread to lymph nodes (bean-sized collections of immune cells) in the abdomen or pelvis but not to more distant lymph nodes, such as those inside the chest.
  • The cancer has invaded nearby vital structures so the surgeon could not completely remove it.
  • Deposits of tumor (tumor implants) are found along the lining of the abdominal space.
  • Cancer cells are found at the edge of the sample removed by surgery, indicating that some of the cancer still remains after surgery.
  • The cancer "spilled" into the abdominal space before or during surgery.
  • The tumor was removed in more than one piece – for example, the tumor was in the kidney and in the nearby adrenal gland, which was removed separately.

About 20% to 25% of all Wilms tumours are stage III.

Stage IV

The cancer has spread through the blood to organs away from the kidneys such as the lungs, liver, brain, or bone, or to lymph nodes far away from the kidneys. Tumours in other parts of the body are known as metastases.

About 10% of all Wilms tumours are stage IV.

Stage V

Tumors are found in both kidneys at diagnosis. Also called bilateral Wilms tumours.

About 5% of all Wilms tumours are stage V.

Recurrent or relapsed Wilms tumours are not staged. 

Based on the biopsy result, and after examining the whole tumour under the microscope, Wilms’ tumours can be divided into a number of groups based on knowledge about how these different types of tumours are likely to behave.

The tumour will be classified as 'low risk' 'intermediate risk' or 'high risk' depending on how likely, based upon what they have seen under the microscope, the tumour is likely to respond to treatment and if it is likely to relapse. 

Certain factors result in a 'high risk' Wilms’ tumour. High risk tumours require more intensive (stronger) chemotherapy and closer observation following treatment:

Anaplastic Wilms’ tumour

About 5-10% of Wilms’ tumours have an appearance called anaplasia, which means the cells look very disorganised under a microscope. This is sometimes identified at biopsy, but may only be found when the whole tumour is examined after surgery.

Blastemal Wilms’ tumour

This group of high-risk tumours cannot be identified by looking at the biopsy because they occur when a particular type of early kidney cell survives the pre-surgery chemotherapy. These cells are known as blastemal cells. Tumours where most of these cells survive chemotherapy are called blastemal tumours. 

Loss of Heterozygosity (LOH)

Information researchers have learnt about changes in genes of children with Wilms tumour have found that specific gene mutations or abnormalities can potentially play a role in tumour growth and tumour control and may also provide information about prognosis and risk of relapse. 

Children whose tumours show loss of heterozygosity (a situation where one chromosome has a normal copy of a gene and one chromosome has a mutant or deleted copy, at chromosomes 16q and 1p, for example) appear to have worse survival rates and are more likely to relapse. 

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