Translocation carcinomas of the kidney

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The MiT subfamily of transcription factors includes TFE3, TFEB, TFEC, and MITF. Gene fusions involving two of these transcription factors have been well-characterized in renal cell carcinoma (RCC). The TFE3-rearranged RCC (also known as Xp11 translocation RCC) was first officially recognized in the 2004 World Health Organization (WHO) renal tumor classification. The TFEB-rearranged RCC, which typically harbor a t(6;11)(p21;q12) translocation which results in a MALAT1-TFEB gene fusion, were first officially recognized in the 2016 WHO renal tumor classification. These two subtypes of translocation RCC have many similarities. Both disproportionately involve young patients, although adult translocation RCC overall outnumber pediatric cases. Both often have unusual and distinctive morphologies; the TFE3-rearranged RCCs frequently have clear cells with papillary architecture and abundant psammoma bodies, while the TFEB-rearranged RCCs frequently have a biphasic appearance with both small and large epithelioid cells and nodules of basement membrane material. However, the morphology of these two neoplasms can overlap, with one mimicking the other or other more common renal neoplasms. Both of these RCC underexpress epithelial immunohistochemical markers, such as cytokeratin and epithelial membrane antigen, relative to most other RCC. Unlike other RCC, both frequently express the cysteine protease cathepsin k and often express melanocytic markers like HMB45 and Melan A. Finally, TFE3 and TFEB have overlapping functional activity as these two transcription factors frequently heterodimerize and bind to the same targets. Therefore, these two neoplasms are now grouped together under the heading of “MiT family translocation RCC.” Approximately 50 renal cell carcinomas with gene fusions involving the anaplastic lymphoma kinase (ALK) gene have now been reported. While those with a Vinculin-ALK fusion have distinctive features (predilection to affect children with sickle cell trait and to show solid architecture with striking cytoplasmic vacuolization), other ALK-fusion RCCs have more varied clinical presentations and pathologic features. This review summarizes our current knowledge of these recently described RCC.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-227
Number of pages9
JournalGenes Chromosomes and Cancer
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2022


  • ALK
  • TFE3
  • TFEB
  • renal carcinoma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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