Purpose: We report our experience using aggressive multimodal therapy in a high risk group of patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma and concurrent inferior vena caval extension.
Materials and methods: We retrospectively reviewed the records of all patients in our kidney cancer database who had metastatic renal cell carcinoma and tumor thrombus extension into the inferior vena cava at the initial diagnosis. Patients were included in the study if they underwent radical nephrectomy and inferior venal caval thombectomy, and immunotherapy was planned for the postoperative period. Tumor size and grade, metastatic sites, level of vena caval extension, surgical complications and overall survival were obtained from the medical records. The primary end point analyzed was overall survival.
Results: We identified 31 cases of metastatic renal cell cancer with extensive disease and vena caval extension. Of the patients 23% had an isolated lung metastasis, and 53% had metastasis in the lung and at other sites. The remaining patients had involvement primarily at nonpulmonary metastatic sites, including lymph node in 38%, soft tissue in 13%, liver in 29% and bone in 10%. Average blood loss during nephrectomy was 3,200 cc (median 2,100) and the rate of major complications was 12%. Of the patients 80% underwent the full course of surgery and postoperative immunotherapy. At a mean followup of 18 months (34 for survivors) 26% of the patients are alive. Actuarial overall 5-year survival of the group was 17%. Tumor thrombus level did not correlate with overall survival, while immunotherapy, tumor grade and metastatic site provided significant prognostic information. In patients with an isolated pulmonary metastasis the 5-year survival rate was 43%, while in those with low grade tumors it was 52%.
Conclusions: In contrast to the poor results of surgery only in patients with renal cell carcinoma and concurrent inferior venal caval invasion, reasonable 5-year survival may be achieved after combined aggressive surgery and immunotherapy. Patients in whom metastasis was limited to the lungs and those with grade 1 to 2 tumors had a better prognosis. With careful planning and experienced immunotherapists therapy may be completed in the majority of this high risk group of patients.