Each year in the United States, about 35,000 people will be diagnosed with kidney cancer. About 12,000 will die. Now, a new test gets closer to an earlier and more accurate diagnosis.
Mike Frozzitta found a lump that turned out to be kidney cancer. Currently, the only way to detect kidney cancer is with a computed axial tomography scan or magnetic resonance imaging, but Frozzitta's tests showed uncertain results.
"Seventy percent to 90 percent of kidney masses that appear to be malignant on CAT scans or MRI are, which means that 10 percent to 30 percent are not. Unfortunately, you can't distinguish between those that are malignant and those that aren't," says Robert Uzzo, M.D., an urological oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia.
Dr. Uzzo says surgery is the only way to determine whether the mass is cancerous. That could soon change thanks to research at the Fox Chase Cancer Center. "This study was therefore designed to help distinguish, preoperatively, which tumors will be benign and which will be malignant based upon a simple test that can be done within the urine," explains Dr. Uzzo.
He examined specific genes in more than 100 patients and looked for a defect in their tumor. At the same time, he looked at urine samples. "When they had that defect in their tumor, they had it in their urine as well," says Dr. Uzzo. That urine test can also tell the difference between types of tumors. Frozzitta wishes the test had been available when he was diagnosed.
"Had this been available a while back, it might have saved my kidney." That's because it might have caught the cancer sooner. "You can drive from here to New York to California without a spare tire but you prefer not to. So, I prefer to have that spare kidney, now I don't have that spare, so if anything goes wrong with this one..." Frozzitta says.
The test could become available in the next five years. Patients often don't experience symptoms before they are diagnosed with kidney cancer. However, some patients will experience back pain, abdominal pain, or blood in their urine before diagnosis.