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Am J Surg Pathol. 2004 Sep;28(9):1117-32.

Morphologic and molecular characterization of renal cell carcinoma in children and young adults.

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  • 1Institute of Pathology, University of Basel, Switzerland.


A new WHO classification of renal cell carcinoma has been introduced in 2004. This classification includes the recently described renal cell carcinomas with the ASPL-TFE3 gene fusion and carcinomas with a PRCC-TFE3 gene fusion. Collectively, these tumors have been termed Xp11.2 or TFE3 translocation carcinomas, which primarily occur in children and young adults. To further study the characteristics of renal cell carcinoma in young patients and to determine their genetic background, 41 renal cell carcinomas of patients younger than 22 years were morphologically and genetically characterized. Loss of heterozygosity analysis of the von Hippel-Lindau gene region and screening for VHL gene mutations by direct sequencing were performed in 20 tumors. TFE3 protein overexpression, which correlates with the presence of a TFE3 gene fusion, was assessed by immunohistochemistry. Applying the new WHO classification for renal cell carcinoma, there were 6 clear cell (15%), 9 papillary (22%), 2 chromophobe, and 2 collecting duct carcinomas. Eight carcinomas showed translocation carcinoma morphology (20%). One carcinoma occurred 4 years after a neuroblastoma. Thirteen tumors could not be assigned to types specified by the new WHO classification: 10 were grouped as unclassified (24%), including a unique renal cell carcinoma with prominently vacuolated cytoplasm and WT1 expression. Three carcinomas occurred in combination with nephroblastoma. Molecular analysis revealed deletions at 3p25-26 in one translocation carcinoma, one chromophobe renal cell carcinoma, and one papillary renal cell carcinoma. There were no VHL mutations. Nuclear TFE3 overexpression was detected in 6 renal cell carcinomas, all of which showed areas with voluminous cytoplasm and foci of papillary architecture, consistent with a translocation carcinoma phenotype. The large proportion of TFE3 "translocation" carcinomas and "unclassified" carcinomas in the first two decades of life demonstrates that renal cell carcinomas in young patients contain genetically and phenotypically distinct tumors with further potential for novel renal cell carcinoma subtypes. The far lower frequency of clear cell carcinomas and VHL alterations compared with adults suggests that renal cell carcinomas in young patients have a unique genetic background.

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