Small Renal Mass Surveillance: Histology-specific Growth Rates in a Biopsy-characterized Cohort

Finelli A, Cheung D, Al-Matar A, et al.
Eur Urol. 2020 Sep;78(3):460-467.
DOI: 10.1016/j.eururo.2020.06.053.



Most reports of active surveillance (AS) of small renal masses (SRMs) lack biopsy confirmation, and therefore include benign tumors and different subtypes of renal cell carcinoma (RCC).


We compared the growth rates and progression of different histologic subtypes of RCC SRMs (SRMRCC) in the largest cohort of patients with biopsy-characterized SRMs on AS.

Design, setting and participants

Data from patients in a multicenter Canadian trial and a Princess Margaret cohort were combined to include 136 biopsy-proven SRMRCC lesions managed by AS, with treatment deferred until progression or patient/surgeon decision.

Outcome measurements and statistical analysis

Growth curves were estimated from serial tumor size measures. Tumor progression was defined by sustained size ≥4 cm or volume doubling within 1 yr.

Results and limitations

Median follow-up for patients who remained on AS was 5.8 yr (interquartile range 3.4-7.5 yr). Clear cell RCC SRMs (SRMccRCC) grew faster than papillary type 1 SRMs (0.25 and 0.02 cm/yr on average, respectively, p = 0.0003). Overall, 60 SRMRCC lesions progressed: 49 (82%) by rapid growth (volume doubling), seven (12%) increasing to ≥4 cm, and four (6.7%) by both criteria. Six patients developed metastases, and all were of clear cell RCC histology. Limitations include the use of different imaging modalities and a lack of central imaging review.


Tumor growth varies between histologic subtypes of SRMRCC and among SRMccRCC, which likely reflects individual host and tumor biology. Without validated biomarkers that predict this variation, initial follow-up of histologically characterized SRMs can inform personalized treatment for patients on AS.

Patient summary

Many small kidney cancers are suitable for surveillance and can be monitored over time for change. We demonstrate that different types of kidney cancers grow at different rates and are at different risks of progression. These results may guide better personalized treatment.

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