Childhood cancers: nephroblastoma

Nephroblastoma, or Wilms tumor, is a malignant tumor of the kidney, specific to early childhood, and is very different from adult kidney cancers. The other forms of kidney cancer in children are extremely rare.

Characteristics and clinical signs for nephroblastoma

There is no hereditary form of nephroblastoma. In some rare cases, it is associated with malformations, such as Wiedemann-Beckwith syndrome.

The presence of a mass in the abdomen is often the first warning sign. Additional imaging exams are required to establish the diagnosis.


Effective treatments for nephroblastoma

Treatment of nephroblastoma starts with initial chemotherapy. Its aim is to reduce the size of the tumor to facilitate surgical removal of the kidney (nephrectomy). Nephrectomy is often accompanied by examination of any suspicious areas. Samples of the lymph nodes are taken. A search is performed for any metastases on the peritoneum, the liver or the other kidney.

Post-operative chemotherapy may be performed. This aims to eliminate elements of the tumor still present, and to reduce the risk or formation of metastases.

Radiotherapy is not systematic, and is reserved for certain nephroblastoma stages.

The remarkable improvement in recovery rates achieved over the past 40 years (from 20% to over 90%) is the result of progress in surgery as well as in radiotherapy and chemotherapy. This proves the importance of specialized and multi-disciplinary therapies for cancer, as well as the consideration of international clinical trials conducted.