Curr Opin Urol. 2020 Jul 20. doi: 10.1097/MOU.0000000000000806. Online ahead of print.
PURPOSE OF REVIEW: To acquaint urologists with aristolochic acid nephropathy, an iatrogenic disease that poses a distinct threat to global public health. In China alone, 100 million people may currently be at risk. We illustrate the power of molecular epidemiology in establishing the cause of this disease.
RECENT FINDINGS: Molecular epidemiologic approaches and novel mechanistic information established a causative linkage between exposure to aristolochic acid and urothelial carcinomas of the bladder and upper urinary tract. Noninvasive tests are available that detect urothelial cancers through the genetic analysis of urinary DNA. Combined with cytology, some of these tests can detect 95% of patients at risk of developing bladder and/or upper urothelial tract cancer. Robust biomarkers, including DNA-adduct and mutational signature analysis, unequivocally identify aristolochic acid-induced tumours. The high mutational load associated with aristolochic acid-induced tumours renders them candidates for immune-checkpoint therapy.
SUMMARY: Guided by recent developments that facilitate early detection of urothelial cancers, the morbidity and mortality associated with aristolochic acid-induced bladder and upper tract urothelial carcinomas may be substantially reduced. The molecular epidemiology tools that define aristolochic acid-induced tumours may be applicable to other studies assessing potential environmental carcinogens.