Nephrology Research: How Will We Find a Cure?

Posted by: DaVita Clinical Research

Chances are that you or someone you know has faced a cancer diagnosis.  It’s also likely that after a diagnosis, the possibility of participating in clinical trials was highlighted. For those in the healthcare field, the field of oncology goes hand-in-hand with the idea of research.  For many patients with a diagnosis of cancer, the mindset is one of fighting for one’s life, making many open to the possibility of participating in a clinical trial.

Cancer consistently falls into the top five therapeutic areas in which randomized clinical trials (RCTs) are conducted. Compare that to the field of nephrology, which falls to the bottom of the list of therapeutic areas in which RCTs are conducted.

Statistics on Chronic Kidney Disease

In 2016, 49,959 people in the US died from nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, or nephrosis due to CKD. The prevalence of CKD is approximately 14% of the general population, and the treatment of CKD costs a disproportionate share of Medicare dollars in the US: 20% of all Medicare spending in 2013 in persons age 65 and over.

Why Do We Need More Nephrology Research?

With the high costs both in terms of dollars and lost lives, why isn’t there more clinical research in nephrology?  Why are the rates of participation in clinical trials so low?  It seems that many people have grown to accept kidney failure, and dialysis or kidney transplant, as a natural part of aging.

We need more basic research in the field of nephrology.  The director for the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, Janet Woodcock, M.D., recently highlighted that the field of oncology has seen more success with clinical trials because there is better basic science that allows researchers and regulators to understand the natural history of the disease.  Specifically, the drug targets and measures for cancer’s disease progression are well characterized and reliable markers of hard outcomes.  Kidney diseases, on the other hand, lack the same basic data that make clinical trials for cancer successful.

How Can We Encourage More Nephrology Research?

Currently, the nephrology community focuses on the result of disease and loss of kidney function, and says that research is done on “kidney disease” rather than “kidney diseases.”  While the difference in phrasing seems minor, it does play a role in cultural perceptions and potential research opportunities.

Potential Research Collaborations

Given the connection between diabetes and kidney disease, better collaboration between endocrinologists and nephrologists could be fruitful.  A notable example of this is the BEAt-DKD project (Biomarker Enterprise to Attack Diabetic Kidney Disease) currently ongoing in Europe. The project aims to better characterize the types of diabetic kidney diseases and the associated complications.  The two objectives are:

  • To provide a holistic systems medicine view of the pathogenesis of DKD with the aim to identify targetable mechanisms and pathways underlying initiation and progression of DKD, applying a novel sub-classification of diabetes
  • To identify and validate biomarkers of disease progression and treatment responses representing first steps towards precision medicine in the management of DKD

We need more of this kind of research to help make significant advances in nephrology and shift societal perceptions about kidney diseases. To learn more about how DaVita Clinical Research is helping to advance nephrology research, visit our site today.