What Is Wilms Tumor?

by Elizabeth Perlman, M.D.
February 1, 2016
What is Wilms tumor?

Wilms tumor is a cancer of the kidney. It is one of the most common types of childhood cancer, with approximately 500 new patients a year in the United States alone.

What are the signs and symptoms of Wilms tumor?

There are few signs of Wilms tumor. The most common sign is a firm mass in the belly. The tumor expands slowly and is usually quite large when detected.

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What treatment options are available for kids with Wilms tumor?

The treatment program is typically designed based on these factors:

  • The child’s age
  • The tumor’s size and stage
  • The tumor’s particular features
  • Whether the tumor has spread beyond the kidney

Treatment usually involves a combination of the following:

  • Surgery: Wilms tumors usually need to be removed by a surgeon, either before or after additional therapy. In very young patients, small tumors that haven’t spread beyond the kidney may not require additional therapy.
  • Chemotherapy: Most children with Wilms tumors will benefit from two drugs that kill tumor cells, vincristine and actinomycin-D. A smaller number of children will also benefit from another drug called doxorubicin.
  • Radiation therapy: In addition to chemotherapy, a small number of children will benefit from further treatment using radiation.
How is research helping kids with Wilms tumor?

Research into the causes and treatment of Wilms tumor has been remarkably successful in the last few decades. As a result, over 90% of patients with Wilms tumor now survive their disease.

However, Wilms tumor researchers are still faced with these challenges:

  • Reducing the side effects of therapy
  • Identifying tumor features that will predict which patients will relapse
  • Identifying new therapies that will successfully treat tumors that relapse

Read the childhood cancer journey of Austin who was diagnosed with Wilms tumor when he was 10 months old, or get involved to help kids just like him.

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