The Clinicopathologic and Molecular Landscape of Clear Cell Papillary Renal Cell Carcinoma: Implications in Diagnosis and Management

Eur Urol. 2021 Apr;79(4):468-477. doi: 10.1016/j.eururo.2020.09.027. Epub 2020 Oct 10.


Background: Clear cell papillary renal cell carcinoma (CCPRCC) is a recently described tumor entity. Several questions remain about its epidemiology, molecular features, and clinical behavior.

Objective: To comprehensively evaluate clinicopathologic and molecular features of CCPRCC, and compare it with more common kidney cancer subtypes.

Design, setting, and participants: We identified 89 CCPRCC patients and compared their clinicopathologic features with 1120 localized clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC) and 129 type 1 papillary renal cell carcinoma (pRCC) patients.

Outcome measurements and statistical analysis: Nonparametric statistical testing was used to compare relevant features between tumor types. Overall, cancer-specific survival (CSS) and metastasis-free survival estimates were calculated from initial diagnosis using the Kaplan-Meier method. Patients with ipsilateral multifocal disease were explored further. A subset of CCPRCC tumors underwent genomic analysis and were compared with other RCC subtypes.

Results and limitations: A higher proportion of female (45% vs 32%) and African-American (19% vs 3%) patients were observed in the CCPRCC cohort than in the ccRCC and pRCC cohorts. CCPRCC tumors also had increased odds of presenting with additional ipsilateral masses (odds ratio [OR]: 4.41 [confidence interval {CI}: 2.34, 8.15], p < 0.001) and bilateral disease (OR: 4.80 [CI: 2.40, 9.59], p < 0.001) compared with ccRCC tumors. On molecular analysis, CCPRCC tumors showed fewer somatic aberrations and a greater degree of mitochondrial DNA depletion. In multifocal CCPRCC tumors, histologic concordance among the different renal cell carcinoma masses was estimated at 44% (7/16), and none of the individuals presenting exclusively with CCPRCC tumors developed metastatic disease after 5 yr. In contrast, multifocal tumors with CCPRCC and other nonconcordant histologies were more likely to experience adverse outcomes (CSS, log rank p = 0.034).

Conclusions: CCPRCC is characterized by distinct molecular and epidemiologic features that could be used to refine current diagnostic approaches. Although their clinical course is generally indolent, multifocal CCPRCC tumors represent a unique diagnostic challenge. In this context, single-mass biopsies could miss concomitant aggressive disease, with a potential negative impact on patient outcomes. Furthermore, high discordance rates in multifocal CCPRCC tumors have important clinical implications in management.

Patient summary: We explored the molecular and clinical features of clear cell papillary renal cell carcinoma (CCPRCC) relative to other kidney cancer subtypes. While CCPRCC generally conveys a good prognosis, additional caution should be taken when it is diagnosed using biopsy if multiple kidney masses are present.

Keywords: Clear cell papillary; DNA copy number; Genomics; Renal cell carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell* / epidemiology
  • Carcinoma, Renal Cell* / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Kidney Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Retrospective Studies