Context: The World Health Organization classification of renal tumors synthesizes morphologic, immunohistochemical, and molecular findings to define more than 40 tumor types. Of these, clear cell (conventional) renal cell carcinoma is the most common malignant tumor in adults and-with the exception of some rare tumors-the most deadly. The diagnosis of clear cell renal cell carcinoma on morphologic grounds alone is generally straightforward, but challenging cases are not infrequent. A misdiagnosis of clear cell renal cell carcinoma has clinical consequences, particularly in the current era of targeted therapies.
Objective: To highlight morphologic mimics of clear cell renal cell carcinoma and provide strategies to help differentiate clear cell renal cell carcinoma from other renal tumors and lesions. The role of the pathologist in guiding treatment for renal malignancies will be emphasized to stress the importance of proper tumor classification in patient management.
Data sources: Published literature and personal experience.
Conclusions: In challenging cases, submission of additional tissue is often an inexpensive and effective way to facilitate a correct diagnosis. If immunohistochemical stains are to be used, it is best to use a panel of markers, as no one marker is specific for a given renal tumor subtype. Selection of limited markers, based on a specific differential diagnosis, can be as useful as a large panel in reaching a definitive diagnosis. For renal tumors, both the presence and absence of immunoreactivity and the pattern of labeling (membranous, cytoplasmic, diffuse, focal) are important when interpreting the results of immunohistochemical stains.