Screening for kidney cancer in Leeds

A new University of Cambridge-led study registered at the ISRCTN registry will investigate the feasibility of developing a full kidney cancer screening clinical trial.

Patients taking part in a pioneering lung screening program in Leeds will now have the option to be checked for kidney cancer thanks to additional funding from Yorkshire Cancer Research.

This study, led by Professor Grant Stewart, will investigate whether an extra scan for kidney cancer can be effectively introduced to mobile lung screening programs. The study follows Professor Stewart’s 2020 Nature Reviews Urology paper examining the feasibility of kidney cancer screening.

Around six in 10 people with kidney cancer do not experience symptoms, and they are often only diagnosed during tests for another condition or reason. This means over a third of patients are diagnosed at a late stage when the cancer is more difficult to treat. Just six in 10 patients with kidney cancer live for 5 years after diagnosis.

Doctor examining patient with CT scanner
jovannig / Fotolia

Grant Stewart, Professor of Surgical Oncology at the University of Cambridge and study lead, said: “Kidney cancer is currently a silent and lethal condition. It is often not diagnosed until the disease has passed the point at which we can easily cure it. Given that kidney cancer is largely curable if identified at an early stage when no symptoms are present, there has been international interest for many years amongst the scientific community in developing a potential screening program for this ‘silent’ cancer.”

“To establish if screening is possible, we will piggyback on the Leeds Lung Health Check and offer an extra CT scan for kidney cancer to those taking part in this important clinical trial. The extra scan will take just 10 seconds.”

“This will be the first study in the world to address uncertainties and test the clinical rationale and logistics required to see if we can develop a full kidney cancer screening clinical trial within a lung health check program. By the end of the feasibility study, we will understand whether we can and should undertake a full kidney cancer screening clinical trial as we’ll know whether people are likely to take up this extra scan.”

Doctor examining patient with CT scanner
picsfive / Fotolia

Andrew Macnamara’s story demonstrates the importance of screening to catching kidney cancer while it’s treatable. He said: “They told me something had shown up on the scan I’d had for my lungs. They had caught the top of my kidney on the lung scan and noticed that it was enlarged, they said I needed a further scan to find out why.” Andrew made a full recovery after nephrectomy and got the all-clear at the end of 2020.

“I think adding kidney scans to the Leeds Lung Health Check is a good thing. I was lucky that the doctors noticed something out of the ordinary on my lung scan, as they caught the top of the kidney, but I then needed to have a separate scan at hospital to fully check my kidneys. If they can scan the whole of the kidneys with the lungs at the same time that will be fantastic.”

This trial is funded by Yorkshire Cancer Research, delivered in partnership with Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, the University of Leeds and Leeds City Council.

View the latest posts on the On Medicine homepage