Carl Max Wilhelm Wilms was a German pathologist and surgeon who worked extensively on renal tumours towards the end of the 19th century. One of the most common solid tumours in children, nephroblastoma, is also known as Wilms tumour in recognition of his work. In resource-rich countries, the five-year survival for this cancer is 90% and the focus now is on reducing the treatment-related morbidity while maintaining similar outcomes.
Despite being a relatively common childhood cancer, there have been no published studies from India on the outcome of this cancer for over a decade. It is for this reason, that the recently published report from PGI Chandigarh (Trehan et al, JPHO, 2011) is so timely. 23 children with Wilms tumour were seen over a five year time period (1999 to 2003). Three did not start treatment and abandoned after diagnosis. In the remaining 20 treatment was based on the SIOP philosophy of neoadjuvant or preoperative chemotherapy. There was one treatment related mortality (5%), three relapses (15%) and one abandonment on therapy (5%) leading to a five-year event-free survival of 75%.
Detailed analysis of causes of treatment failure would be needed to further improve outcomes. What is noteworthy is that the three relapses happened in two Stage II patients and one Stage III patients. Staging of the chest was done by x-ray which would be standard practice in many centres in India. I wonder whether a CT Chest may have upstaged these patients at diagnosis and consequently they might have received more intensive chemotherapy leading to reduced risk of relapse. I think it is a question worth answering in the future.
How does this compare to other centres in India? The difficulty is the lack of published and peer-reviewed literature. Nevertheless, long term event-free survival of 73% and 77% have been reported from Tata Memorial Hospital (SIOP 2005) and AIIMS (SIOP 2009) based on data obtained from scientific presentations of annual SIOP congresses.