Kidney Cancer Metastases in Lung May Hide Undiagnosed Primary Lung Cancer

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Patients with metastatic kidney cancer may also have primary lung cancer that has gone undiagnosed.
Patients with metastatic kidney cancer may also have primary lung cancer that has gone undiagnosed.

Patients with metastatic kidney cancer may also have undiagnosed primary lung cancer. Researchers with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center's Kidney Cancer Program discovered that 3.5% of patients with metastatic kidney cancer that had spread to the lungs also had a primary lung cancer tumor that had gone undiagnosed.1

Their retrospective study of 151 patients at the Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center identified 3 of 85 patients with kidney cancer metastasized to the lungs who also had primary lung cancer. The researchers were only able to identify 4 previous cases, which lead them to conclude that other cases of lung cancer in patients with kidney cancer may have gone undiagnosed and underreported.

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"Kidney cancer spreads primarily to the lungs, making the detection of a primary lung cancer difficult. Lung cancer is typically more aggressive than kidney cancer. Undetected, lung cancer may spread and eventually kill the patient," said James Brugarolas, MD, PhD, director of the Kidney Cancer Program and associate professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who was lead researcher for the study, in a news release.2

The study was published in Clinical Genitourinary Cancer and highlights an important discovery that could affect treatment choices and survival rates. According to the National Cancer Institute, approximately 400,000 Americans live with kidney cancer, and the disease is expected to be diagnosed in an estimated 60,000 more people this year. "Our report raises an important flag for medical oncologists and radiologists to be on the lookout for a hidden lung cancer," said Dr Brugarolas.


1. Bowman IA, Pedrosa I, Kapur P, Brugarolas J. Renal cell carcinoma with pulmonary metastasis and metachronous non-small cell lung cancer. Clin Genitourin Cancer. 2017 Feb 6. doi: 10.1016/j.clgc.2017.01.026 [Epub ahead of print]

2. Lung cancer may go undetected in kidney cancer patients. Dallas, TX: UT Southwestern Medical Center; March 7, 2017. Accessed March 23, 2017.

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