Positive vascular wall margins have minimal impact on cancer outcomes in patients with non-metastatic renal cell carcinoma (RCC) with tumour thrombus




  • To evaluate the impact of microscopically positive vascular margins on recurrence and cancer-specific survival (CSS) in patients with renal cell carcinoma (RCC) with venous thrombus

Patients and Methods

  • We reviewed the records from the period 1993 to 2009 of consecutive patients treated surgically for RCC with venous tumour thrombus at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
  • Patients with metastatic disease, positive soft tissue margins or gross residual disease at time of thrombectomy were excluded.
  • The primary outcome measures were local or systemic disease recurrence, and CSS.
  • Univariate and multivariate analysis were used to evaluate whether microscopically positive vascular margins were associated with RCC recurrence or CSS after nephrectomy with thrombectomy.


  • A total of 256 patients with RCC were identified with a median (interquartile range) follow-up of 36.7 (18.4–63.5) months. Microscopic tumour was present at the margin of resection in 47 patients (18.4%).
  • The median recurrence-free interval was significantly shorter in patients with positive vascular margins: 22.1 vs 70.2 months (P = 0.009).
  • The rate of local recurrence was higher in patients with positive vein margins: 12.8 vs 4.3% (P < 0.01). Local recurrence without concomitant systemic recurrence was identified in only two of 256 (0.8%) patients.
  • Patients with positive vascular margins had significantly worse CSS times compared with patients with negative vascular margins: 37.7 vs 93.0 months (P = 0.004).
  • In multivariable analysis, positive vascular margins were found to be independently predictive of local recurrence but not of systemic recurrence or CSS.


  • Complete surgical excision should always be attempted because positive vascular wall margins increase local recurrence rates.
  • Invasion of RCC into the vein wall at the resection margin is associated with aggressive tumour biology, and the majority of patients with positive vascular wall margins experience systemic recurrence.