New database created to spare cancer patients from surgery


29th September 2020

A newly developed database of patient information is the key to preventing the aggressive over-treatment of cystic kidney cancer in elderly patients, a University of Dundee expert has said.

Professor Ghulam Nabi and his team as part of the Tayside Urological Cancer Network (TUCAN) have created an eye-opening database which is transforming the treatment process for elderly cystic kidney cancer patients with pre-existing conditions.

Cystic kidney cancer occurs when fluid filled sacs, known as cysts, form within the kidney. These cysts are usually benign, however a small proportion can become cancerous.

The traditional treatment plan for cystic kidney cancer is to surgically remove the affected kidney posing a great risk to patients. Professor Nabi’s work will build the foundations for precise and harm-reducing treatment plans.

The database was collated through the monitoring of over 400 cystic kidney cancer patients. Tracking patient outcomes over an extended period has allowed Professor Nabi and his team to observe that cystic kidney cancer is not as harmful as first thought and that the number of patients receiving potentially curative surgery was unnecessarily high.

As a result of this deep dive into patient outcomes there has been a 30-40% reduction in the number of patients undergoing risky major surgery. Professor Nabi’s research is now helping clinicians better understand the boundaries of when a treatment plan can do more harm than good for high-risk patients.

The most commonly observed pre-existing conditions in elderly patients are diabetes, heart disease and respiratory conditions, all of which increase the likelihood of complications after surgery.

Professor Nabi’s research has shown that these cancers are less harmful than originally thought and has given a second chance to patients best suited to non-operative treatment plan.

“Our research will improve knowledge and hopefully influence clinical practice in managing these specific kidney cancers and improve the lives of patients,” said Professor Ghulam Nabi.

“It is our hope that these findings will feed into guidelines for clinical practice and impact management of these cancers the world over. It is imperative that this information begins a new chapter for the treatment of elderly patients with health-related co-morbidities.

“Our research findings will significantly improve the selection of patients who may or may not benefit from surgery.”

Alongside the improved treatment plans, Professor Nabi’s researched is also aiding doctors to more accurately diagnose the disease in the first instance through detailed CT scans.

This research will influence future clinical practice and greatly improve the quality of life for people that suffer from cystic kidney cancer alongside other pre-existing conditions.

The research completed by Professor Nabi and his team has now been published in two prestigious journals, Cancers and European Radiology.

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