Wilm’s Tumor (Nephroblastoma) : Quick review

Wilm’s tumor is the most common primary renal tumor of childhood.

Origin: Embryonic nephrogenic (mesodermal) cells

Mechanism: Deletion of WT-1 gene on chromosome 11


a. Macroscopic (Gross): large, solitary tan to grey color mass; pale on cut section with areas of hemorrhage; 10% are bilateral or multicentric; grossly difficult to distinguish from neuroblastoma

b. Microscopic: tumor containing 3 elements –

  1. Metanephric blastema
  2. Epithelial elements (Immature glomeruli and tubule)
  3. Stroma

Incidence: 1 per 10,000 children before the age of 15 years

Average age at diagnosis: 3-4 years

wilms tumor


  1. Usually asymptomatic abdominal mass (classic history – found during dressing or bathing)
  2. 20% patients present with minimal blunt trauma to mass
  3. Other: abdominal mass, gross hematuria, fever


  1. Abdominal mass (mostly donot cross the midline)
  2. Hematuria (10-15%; indicates invasion of collecting system)
  3. Hypertension (20%; related to compression of juxtaglomerular apparatus)
  4. Signs of Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome may be present

Associated syndromes:

Approx. 10% of Wilms tumors occur in children with syndromes.

1. WAGR syndrome (deletion of WT1 gene)

  • Wilms tumor
  • Aniridia
  • Genitourinary (GU) anomalies
  • Intellectual disability (mental Retardation)

2. Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (mutations of WT2 gene)

Others: Denys-Drash syndrome (WT1), Fraiser syndrome (WT1), Neurofibromatosis

Best initial test: Ultrasonography of abdomen

Diagnostic radiological tests: Abdominal and chest CT –

  1. Staging purpose
  2. Preoperative assessment
  3. Look at the contralateral kidney


  • Stage I: Limited to kidney and completely resected
  • Stage II: Extends beyond kidney but completely resected; capsule invasion and perirenal tissue may be involved
  • Stage III: Residual non-hematogenous tumor after resection
  • Stage IV: Hematogenous metastases (lung, distal lymph nodes and brain)
  • Stage V: Bilateral renal involvement

Best indicators of survival:

  1. Stage
  2. Histologic subtype: 85% have Favorable Histology (FH) with overall survival of 85% for all stages; 15% have Unfavorable Histology (UH)


Radical resection of affected kidney followed by:

  1. Lower grade tumors (I and II): Chemotherapy (Actinomycin D, i.e. DACT and Vincristine)
  2. Higher grade tumors (III and above): Radiotherapy

Routine pre-operative biopsy should be avoided as this upstages the tumor, requiring the intensification of chemotherapy and abdominal irradiation.

Neoadjuvant chemotherapy/radiotherapy may be required to regress the size of tumor before surgery.

This is a quick review of Wilm’s tumor on request of final year MBBS student Jaymala Shelke. For detailed information on Wilm’s tumor, refer to the textbooks.

6 Viewpoints 💬 on “Wilm’s Tumor (Nephroblastoma) : Quick review”

  1. Thank you for nice article.
    I have 1 question, Is incidence of Wilms’ equal in both sexes or more in female child?

    1. Here’s a quote from the book “Principles of Gender-Specific Medicine” by Marianne J. Legato – “Wilm’s tumor is slightly more frequent in girls than boys. Interestingly, the male:female ratio is 0.92:1 for unilateral tumors, and 0.60:1 for bilateral cases.”

  2. Are you sure that is the most comum tumor in childhood? The most comum is a Central Nervous System, follow by leukemia and neuroblastoma, is not? Wilms is the most common renal tumor.

  3. having a doubt
    ” bilateral involvement without metastasis ”
    Is this possible?
    if possible means
    what stage it is?

    1. Approximately 5-7% of WT patients present with bilateral disease, either synchronously or metachronously. Bilateral WT usually occurs in younger children and more often in girls. Bilateral WT, Stage V is defined bilateral renal involvement at initial diagnosis. A much higher frequency of bilateral disease is observed in patients with predisposition syndromes.

      Further reading:
      1. Charlton J, Irtan S, Bergeron C, Pritchard-Jones K. Bilateral Wilms tumour: a review of clinical and molecular features. Expert Rev Mol Med. 2017 Jul 18;19:e8. doi: 10.1017/erm.2017.8. PMID: 28716159; PMCID: PMC5687181.
      2. Özyörük D, Emir S. The management of bilateral Wilms tumor. Transl Pediatr. 2014 Jan;3(1):34-8. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2224-4336.2014.01.04. PMID: 26835321; PMCID: PMC4728855.

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