Active Surveillance in Small Renal Masses in the Elderly: A Literature Review

Small renal masses have become increasingly common due to widespread imaging; however, optimal management of these lesions in the elderly can be complex due to the competing risks of intervention, natural history of disease, patient comorbidities, and expectations. In the properly selected elderly patient, active surveillance remains an accepted and attractive treatment approach.

We completed a literature review of small renal masses (enhancing, <4cm, T1aN0M0 disease) in the elderly, aged ≥70 yr, aimed at identifying the utility of active surveillance in this population. The primary outcomes were conversion to active treatment while on active surveillance and cancer-specific mortality. Secondary outcomes included predictors of treatment, type of treatment performed (partial nephrectomy, radical nephrectomy, and ablation), progression to metastases, all-cause mortality, tumor growth rate, and demographic data including age and Charlson Comorbidity Index.

A comprehensive search of electronic databases (e.g., MEDLINE, EMBASE, SCOPUS, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library) using search terms "small renal mass" OR "SRM", AND "elderly," "senior," "aging," "geriatric," OR "octogenarian" was completed. All randomized controlled trials, nonrandomized comparison studies, and case series were included and screened by the reviewers. All comparison studies included in the systematic review were assessed for methodological quality using the Cochrane Risk of Bias tools.

Seventeen primary studies including 36495 patients met the inclusion criteria for the systematic review. All studies were retrospective institutional chart or the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database reviews. There was a low (4-26%) rate of conversion to active treatment for active surveillance in the identified studies over a follow-up interval of up to 91.5 mo. Overall mortality was substantial in this elderly cohort, with 15-51% of patients being deceased over the course of study follow-up; however, there was minimal cancer-specific mortality due to patients succumbing to alternative comorbid disease. In the future, patient comorbidity and biological age versus the natural history of the individualized tumor biology may play an increasing role in the discussion regarding treatment options and consideration of active surveillance.

Active surveillance is an effective management strategy in the elderly population. Few patients required the conversion to active treatment and there was low cancer-specific mortality. The majority of patients who expired over the course of the identified studies succumbed to alternative disease. The goal of treatment strategies should include weighing patient-specific prognosis relative to their competing health risks and treatment goals against the natural history of disease and risks of intervention.

In this review article, the authors examined the utility of active surveillance in the setting of a small localized renal mass in the elderly population. Despite being on surveillance, we found that cancer-specific outcomes were excellent, and overall mortality was often a result of comorbid disease. However, there is significant heterogeneity among elderly patients, and treatment approaches should be focused around patient-centered goals and prognosis.

European urology focus. 2017 Nov 23 [Epub]

Douglas C Cheung, Antonio Finelli

Division of Urology, Department of Surgery, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada., Division of Urology, Department of Surgery, University Health Network, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Electronic address: .