Tumoral cubilin is a predictive marker for treatment of renal cancer patients with sunitinib and sorafenib

J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2017 Jun;143(6):961-970. doi: 10.1007/s00432-017-2365-y. Epub 2017 Mar 4.


Purpose: Tyrosine kinase inhibitors like sunitinib and sorafenib are commonly used to treat metastatic renal cell cancer patients. Cubilin is a membrane protein expressed in the proximal renal tubule. Cubilin and megalin function together as endocytic receptors mediating uptake of many proteins. There is no established predictive marker for metastatic renal cell cancer patients and the purpose of the present study was to assess if cubilin can predict response to treatment with tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Methods: Cubilin protein expression was analyzsed in tumor tissue from a cohort of patients with metastatic renal cell cancer (n = 139) using immunohistochemistry. One hundred and thirty six of the patients were treated with sunitinib or sorafenib in the first- or second-line setting. Thirty of these were censored because of toxicity leading to the termination of treatment and the remaining (n = 106) were selected for the current study.

Results: Fifty-three (50%) of the tumors expressed cubilin in the membrane. The median progression-free survival was 8 months in patients with cubilin expressing tumors and 4 months in the cubilin negative group. In addition, the overall survival was better for patients with cubilin positive tumors. We also found that the fraction of cubilin negative patients was significantly higher in the non-responding group (PFS ≤3 months) compared to responding patients (PFS >3 months).

Conclusions: We show for the first time that tumoral expression of cubilin is a positive predictive marker for treatment of metastatic renal cell cancer patients with sunitinib and sorafenib.

Keywords: Cubilin; Predictive marker; Renal cancer; Tissue microarray; Tyrosine kinase inhibitor.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Pharmacological / metabolism
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / drug therapy*
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell / pathology
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Drug Monitoring
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indoles / therapeutic use*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Kidney Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Kidney Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Niacinamide / analogs & derivatives*
  • Niacinamide / therapeutic use
  • Phenylurea Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Prognosis
  • Pyrroles / therapeutic use*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism*
  • Sorafenib
  • Sunitinib
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biomarkers, Pharmacological
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Indoles
  • Phenylurea Compounds
  • Pyrroles
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • intrinsic factor-cobalamin receptor
  • Niacinamide
  • Sorafenib
  • Sunitinib