TP53 mutations have been associated with anaplasia in Wilms tumour, which conveys a high risk for relapse and fatal outcome. Nevertheless, TP53 alterations have been reported in no more than 60% of anaplastic tumours, and recent data have suggested their presence in tumours that do not fulfil the criteria for anaplasia, questioning the clinical utility of TP53 analysis. Therefore, we characterized the TP53 status in 84 fatal cases of Wilms tumour, irrespective of histological subtype. We identified TP53 alterations in at least 90% of fatal cases of anaplastic Wilms tumour, and even more when diffuse anaplasia was present, indicating a very strong if not absolute coupling between anaplasia and deregulation of p53 function. Unfortunately, TP53 mutations do not provide additional predictive value in anaplastic tumours since the same mutation rate was found in a cohort of non-fatal anaplastic tumours. When classified according to tumour stage, patients with stage I diffuse anaplastic tumours still had a high chance of survival (87%), but this rate dropped to 26% for stages II-IV. Thus, volume of anaplasia or possible spread may turn out to be critical parameters. Importantly, among non-anaplastic fatal tumours, 26% had TP53 alterations, indicating that TP53 screening may identify additional cases at risk. Several of these non-anaplastic tumours fulfilled some criteria for anaplasia, for example nuclear unrest, suggesting that such partial phenotypes should be under special scrutiny to enhance detection of high-risk tumours via TP53 screening. A major drawback is that these alterations are secondary changes that occur only later in tumour development, leading to striking intratumour heterogeneity that requires multiple biopsies and analysis guided by histological criteria. In conclusion, we found a very close correlation between histological signs of anaplasia and TP53 alterations. The latter may precede development of anaplasia and thereby provide diagnostic value pointing towards aggressive disease.
Keywords: TP53; Wilms tumour; anaplasia; nephroblastoma; tumour heterogeneity.