• renal cell carcinoma;
  • cytoreductive nephrectomy;
  • metastasis;
  • survival

Objective To evaluate the role of cytoreductive nephrectomy (CRN) in improving survival in patients with renal cell cancer.

Patients and methods The case-notes of 268 consecutive patients who presented to our specialized renal cancer clinic between 1998 and 2001 were reviewed. All patients with metastatic disease were assessed for CRN. If their primary tumour was considered operable, they were assessed further using the European Cooperative Oncology Group performance score; only patients with a performance score of 0 or 1 were considered for surgery.

Results In all, 168 patients underwent nephrectomy with curative intent for M0 disease and 11 were treated conservatively. Ninety-four patients with M+ disease (mean age 65 years, range 38–80) were considered for CRN. Thirty-eight patients had an inoperable primary. Of the remaining 56 patients, 20 had a performance status of 0 or 1 and were offered CRN.

Conclusion Metastatic disease at presentation occurred in 34% of all patients referred; 40% patients had an inoperable primary and 38% had a performance score of geqslant R: gt-or-equal, slanted 2. With an active policy of considering all patients for CRN, only 7% of those with renal cancer were suitable for this procedure. CRN is unlikely to have a significant effect on overall survival within a population of patients with renal cancer.