Wilms’ Tumor and Other Kidney Tumors in Children

Wilms’ Tumor and Other Kidney Tumors in Children

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MSK pediatric hematologist-oncologist Peter Steinherz treats Wilms' tumor in children.

Pediatric hematologist-oncologist Peter Steinherz talks with a patient’s mother.

Wilms’ tumor, also known as nephroblastoma, is the most common kidney tumor in children. It is diagnosed in about 500 children each year in the United States.

There are many forms of kidney cancer that affect children and young adults, such as Wilms’ tumor, rhabdoid tumor, renal cell carcinoma, renal medullary carcinoma, clear cell sarcoma of the kidney, and congenital mesoblastic nephroma. Wilms’ tumor, also known as nephroblastoma, is the most common of these and is diagnosed in about 500 children each year in the United States. The disease is found most often in children between the ages of 2 and 5. However, it can also occur in infants, older school-age children, and rarely adolescents or adults.

Wilms’ tumor was named for Max Wilms, the surgeon who first identified it in 1899. It usually develops in one kidney. Sometimes there are tumors in both kidneys, called bilateral Wilms’ tumor, which is less common.

At MSK Kids, we treat many children with kidney tumors. Every year, we see about 20 children and young adults with kidney tumors, which is about 4 percent of all cases in the US. Most of these children have Wilms’ tumor. People come to us from around the world for our renowned expertise. When you bring your child to MSK Kids, you can rest assured that he or she will be treated by teams with unmatched experience and knowledge. They will provide compassionate care based on the latest medical and surgical advances.

A Personalized Care Plan

We bring together all of the experts your child needs, including surgeons, pediatric oncologists, radiation oncologists, and clinical geneticists to work as a team. You will usually meet with all of your child’s doctors on the day of your first appointment. We know you are concerned about your child’s future, so we do all we can to provide the most effective treatment while minimizing short-term and long-term side effects.

Special Expertise for Relapsed and Complex Wilms’ Tumors

Our pediatric kidney tumor team has unparalleled expertise in caring for children with kidney tumors that have relapsed (come back) after treatment. In fact, we see 5 to10 percent of the nation’s patients with recurrent Wilms’ tumor. We have also successfully treated children who were told by doctors at other hospitals that their tumors were inoperable, had ruptured, were growing in the vena cava, or were present in both kidneys.

Genetic Testing and Counseling for Kidney Tumors

About one in ten children with Wilms’ tumor and one in three children with rhabdoid tumor have a genetic mutation that predisposes them to these cancers. We recommend that all children with these tumor types receive an evaluation by the MSK Kids Clinical Genetics Service and Pediatric Cancer Predisposition Screening Program. The specialists there can help you and your family understand the role of genetics in your child’s cancer. They can also see if any genetic mutations may affect other family members. From your first consultation to follow-up care, the team is there to provide you guidance and support.

Advancing the Field through Research

In addition to caring for patients, MSK Kids team members research kidney tumors to better understand how they start and to find more effective treatments. Here’s what to know:

  • We offer new and innovative treatment options to your child through clinical trials.
  • We publish more findings about pediatric kidney tumors than most centers around the world.
  • Pediatric oncologist Michael Ortiz participates in the national Children’s Oncology Group Renal Tumor Committee, which updates the standards for pediatric kidney tumor care. This ensures your child receives the most advanced treatments as soon as they are ready.