Molecular and Metabolic Basis of Clear Cell Carcinoma of the Kidney

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Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is a heterogenous group of tumors, >70% of which belong to the category of clear cell carcinoma. In recent years, crucial advances have been made in our understanding of the molecular and metabolic basis of clear cell carcinoma. This tumor manifests significant alterations in the cellular metabolism, so that the tumor cells preferentially induce the hypoxia response pathway using aerobic glycolysis, rather than the normal oxidative phosphorylation for energy. Most of the clear cell carcinomas (sporadic as well as familial) have mutations and deletions in the VHL gene located at 3p (p3.25). Normally, pVHL plays a crucial role in the proteasomal degradation of hypoxia-inducible factors (HIF)1 and HIF2. Lack of a functioning pVHL owing to genetic alterations results in stabilization and accumulation of these factors, which promotes cell growth, cell proliferation, and angiogenesis, contributing to a neoplastic phenotype. Several other genes normally located adjacent to VHL (BAP1, SETD2, PBRM1) may also be lost. These are tumor suppressor genes whose loss not only plays a role in carcinogenesis but may also influence the clinical course of these neoplasms. In addition, interaction among a variety of other genes located at several different chromosomes may also play a role in the genesis and progression of clear cell carcinoma.

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