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Urology. 1998 Oct;52(4):594-601.

Prognostic factors, recurrence, and survival in transitional cell carcinoma of the upper urinary tract: a 30-year experience in 252 patients.

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Department of Urology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas 75235-9110, USA.



To review a large single-center experience of patients treated for upper tract transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) with extended follow-up in order to identify patterns of recurrence, assess patient outcomes, and determine the impact of traditional prognostic factors.


We reviewed 252 patients treated surgically for upper tract TCC with a median follow-up of 64 months. Most patients (77%) underwent nephroureterectomy, whereas 17% were treated with a parenchymal sparing approach. Traditional prognostic factors including age, sex, tumor stage, grade, location, and type of surgical treatment were analyzed with respect to disease recurrence and survival.


Disease relapse occurred in 67 patients (27%) at a median time of 12.0 months. Recurrences were local in the retroperitoneum (9%), the bladder (51%), remaining upper tract (18%), or distant in the lung, bone, or liver (22%). The 6 patients with local relapse were among the 73 patients with pT3 or pT4 tumors, and all died of TCC at a median time from diagnosis of 37 months. Significant prognostic factors for recurrence by univariate analysis were tumor grade (P = 0.0014) and stage (P = 0.0001). On multivariate analysis, only tumor stage (P = 0.017) and treatment modality (P = 0.020) were predictors of recurrence. Actuarial 5-year disease-specific survival rates by primary tumor stage were 100% for Ta/cis, 91.7% for T1, 72.6% for T2, and 40.5% for T3. Patients with primary Stage T4 tumors had a median survival of 6 months. Although tumor stage and grade correlated with disease-specific survival on univariate analysis, only patient age (P = 0.042) and stage (P = 0.0001) were significant on multivariate analysis with the type of surgical procedure performed approaching significance (P = 0.0504).


Primary tumor stage and surgical procedure performed (radical versus parenchymal sparing) are important predictors of disease recurrence. Patient age and tumor stage were the only predictors of disease-specific survival on multivariate analysis with the type of surgical procedure approaching significance. Radical nephroureterectomy achieves excellent local control even in the setting of locally advanced (pT3 or T4) disease. The major clinical feature in this setting is distant failure, and the development of effective systemic therapy is needed to improve the outcome in these patients.

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