Background: Until now the therapeutic value of lymphadenectomy for renal-cell carcinoma has remained controversial. Several studies attempting to solve this controversy have been published, but none of them were set up as prospective randomized trials.
Objective: To assess whether a complete lymph-node dissection in conjunction with a radical nephrectomy for renal-cell cancer is more effective than a radical nephrectomy alone.
Design, setting, and participants: In 1988, the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC) Genitourinary Group started a randomized phase 3 trial comparing radical nephrectomy with a complete lymphadenectomy to radical nephrectomy alone. After the renal-cell carcinoma was judged to be N0M0 and resectable, patients were randomly selected prior to surgery to undergo either a radical nephrectomy with a complete lymph-node dissection or to undergo a radical nephrectomy alone. Postoperatively all patients were followed for progression of disease and mortality.
Intervention: All patients underwent a radical nephrectomy with or without a complete lymph-node dissection.
Measurements: All patients were postoperatively evaluated for time-to-progression, overall survival, and progression-free survival. Time-to-event curves were estimated based on the Kaplan-Meier method and compared using a two-sided log-rank test.
Results and limitations: Of the 772 patients selected for randomization, 40 were not eligible for the study. 383 patients were randomly selected to receive a complete lymph-node dissection together with a radical nephrectomy, and 389 patients were randomly selected to undergo a radical nephrectomy alone. The complication rate did not differ significantly between the two groups. Complete lymph-node dissections in 346 patients revealed an absence of lymph-node metastases in 332 patients. The study revealed no significant differences in overall survival, time to progression of disease, or progression-free survival between the two study groups.
Conclusions: This study shows that, after proper preoperative staging, the incidence of unsuspected lymph-node metastases is low (4.0%) and that, notwithstanding a possible relationship to this low incidence rate, no survival advantage of a complete lymph-node dissection in conjunction with a radical nephrectomy could be demonstrated.