A new, international classification of kidney tumours will
eventually result in hundreds of New Zealanders living longer
and enjoying an improved quality of life, University of Otago
pathologist Prof Brett Delahunt says.
''This is very big in the world of pathology,'' he added in
Prof Delahunt, of the department of pathology and nuclear
medicine at Otago University's Wellington campus, has played
a big role in ''more than 20 years of hard work'', also
involving international and New Zealand colleagues, to
produce changes in the World Health Organisation
classification of kidney cancers.
He was chairman of an International Society of Urological
Pathology Consensus Conference in Vancouver, Canada, last
year, which developed changes, since ''implemented'', to the
The new classification, and changes to what he said was a
''really unsatisfactory'' tumour ''grading'' system, had
''huge'' positive implications for patients internationally.
Previous guidelines for classification and grading were
''seriously out of date''.
The work would help usher in a new era in renal tumour
diagnosis and treatment, he said, with better ability to
develop treatments and more accurately predict outcomes.
Renal tumours are diagnosed in about 510 New Zealanders each
year, with numbers projected to rise to 630 by 2016.
It had not been until 1981 that the WHO even classified
kidney cancers, and at that stage recognised only two tumour
classes: ''renal cell carcinoma'' and ''other''. By 2004
there were nine different classes of tumours. That has risen
to more than 20.
The latest outcome had eventually recognised that kidney
cancers varied widely from each other, involving a
''completely different genetic make-up'', different
behaviours, and different treatments.
The new approach would help patients in many ways, including
by making clear that some slow-growing and ''very indolent''
tumours did not require so much of the kidney to be
surgically removed - as had previously occurred - resulting
in better long-term quality of life.
The improved classification system was also likely to
encourage drug companies to develop new drugs to treat
specific tumours which were now more clearly identified, he