Renal cell carcinomas (RCC) are emerging as a complex set of diseases that are having a major socioeconomic impact and showing a continued rise in incidence throughout the world. As the field of urologic oncology faces these trends, several major genomic and mechanistic discoveries are altering our core understanding of this multitude of cancers, including several new rare subtypes of renal cancers. In this review, these new findings are examined and placed in the context of the well-established association of clear cell RCC (ccRCC) with mutations in the von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) gene and resultant aberrant hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) signaling. The impact of novel ccRCC-associated genetic lesions on chromatin remodeling and epigenetic regulation is explored. The effects of VHL mutation on primary ciliary function, extracellular matrix homeostasis, and tumor metabolism are discussed. Studies of VHL proteostasis, with the goal of harnessing the proteostatic machinery to refunctionalize mutant VHL, are reviewed. Translational efforts using molecular tools to elucidate discriminating features of ccRCC tumors and develop improved prognostic and predictive algorithms are presented, and new therapeutics arising from the earliest molecular discoveries in ccRCC are summarized. By creating an integrated review of the key genomic and molecular biological disease characteristics of ccRCC and placing these data in the context of the evolving therapeutic landscape, we intend to facilitate interaction among basic, translational, and clinical researchers involved in the treatment of this devastating disease, and accelerate progress toward its ultimate eradication.
Mol Cancer Res; 10(7); 859-80. ©2012 AACR.