Clear cell papillary renal cell carcinoma, or clear cell papillary renal cell tumor (CCPRCT), is a type of kidney cancer. It overlaps with both clear cell and papillar renal cell carcinomas but has distinct clinical features.

Renal cell carcinomas (RCCs) are the most common types of kidney cancer. RCC occurs when cancerous cells form in the tubules of the kidneys. There are many different subtypes of RCC, which include clear cell papillary renal cell carcinoma (CCPRCC).

People should note that CCPRCC and clear cell tubulopapillary renal cell carcinoma are older terms that medical professionals may use to describe this subtype of kidney cancer. At present, health experts will typically refer to it as a clear cell papillary renal cell tumor (CCPRCT).

This article explores what a CCPRCT is in more detail, including its symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and outlook.

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According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2022 classification of kidney tumors, health experts now refer to clear cell papillary renal cell carcinoma as CCPRCT. This is due to the benign nature of the cancer and to help differentiate it from malignant renal tumors.

CCPRCT is a distinct subtype of kidney cancer. Researchers recognized CCPRCT as different from other RCC subtypes in 2006. Evidence suggests that CCPRCT is the fourth most common type of RCC.

Healthcare professionals may have difficulty recognizing CCPRCT because it shares features with both CCRCC and PRCC. The term “clear cell” describes when a tumor appears clear, like a bubble, under a microscope, and “papillary” refers to when a tumor has small protrusions.

Evidence suggests CCPRCT accounts for roughly 1–4% of all kidney cancers. At present, there is no evidence that CCPRCT spreads in the body. Therefore, the outlook is generally positive, but more research into this type of kidney cancer is necessary.

Health experts may refer to CCPRCT as “indolent.” This refers to the fact that CCPRCT is typically slow-growing and rarely spreads to other parts of the body.

As such, CCPRCT may not present with noticeable symptoms. A doctor may only discover CCPRCT incidentally during other tests. However, a 2023 study notes its most common symptoms were flank and abdominal pain.

If a person notices any signs or symptoms that do not improve or worsen, they should consider contacting a doctor. According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), some common symptoms of cancer may include:

At present, researchers do not yet fully understand the possible causes of CCPRCT.

Studies cited in a 2022 article note that CCPRCT generally occurs between the ages of 18–88, and appears to occur more frequently when people are 70 or older.

Other researchers have highlighted an association between CCPRCT and conditions, such as Von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) syndrome, which is an inherited condition that causes irregular growth in blood vessels, and end stage renal disease (ESRD). However, they also noted that these tumors also occur in kidneys that function as expected.

As such, more research is necessary to understand the causes and potential risk factors for CCPRCT.

Similar to other types of RCCs, diagnosis of CCPRCT will usually involve a series of tests and procedures. Typically, this may include a physical exam, laboratory tests, and imaging studies. Examples of imaging studies include CT, MRI, and ultrasound scans.

To confirm a diagnosis of CCPRCT, a doctor will perform a biopsy. This involves a healthcare professional examining a sample of kidney tissue under a microscope. Clinical guidelines advise that CCPRCT has characteristic features, such as:

  • small cells with a clear cytoplasm, which is the liquid that fills the inside of a cell
  • low grade nuclei, which are the central parts of the cells and contain genetic material
  • alignment away from the basement membrane, which surrounds the outside of cells and provides them with structural support

Initial treatment for CCPRCT may involve watchful waiting and active surveillance. These terms relate to healthcare professionals observing the tumor to see if symptoms worsen and then treating it when and if it becomes necessary.

As CCPRCT is an indolent cancer and unlikely to spread, surgery is often an effective treatment. A 2023 study notes that a partial nephrectomy or minimally invasive procedures, such as ablation, are suitable treatment options.

Learn more about kidney cancer treatment.

Compared to other types of kidney cancer, CCPRCT generally tends to have a more favorable outlook due to its indolent nature. However, as with any cancer, outcomes can vary based on multiple factors, such as the age and general health of the individual with the condition.

CCPRCT is still a relatively new subtype of kidney cancer. As such, more research is necessary to better understand its behavior to develop effective treatment for better outcomes.

Clear cell papillary renal cell tumor (CCPRCT) is a type of kidney cancer. More specifically, it is a subtype of renal cell carcinoma. It shares features with other types of kidney cancer but has distinct clinical features under a microscope.

Researchers do not currently know much about the possible causes of CCPRCT. It is an indolent cancer, meaning it is slow-growing and unlikely to spread. As such, surgery is often effective, and it has a generally positive outlook. However, since experts have only recognized it as a subtype of kidney cancer relatively recently, more research is necessary.

People should speak with a doctor if they notice any symptoms that may indicate CCPRCT.