March 21, 1997

Study tests new weapons in fight against kidney disease

Study tests new weapons in fight against kidney disease

Vanderbilt University Medical Center researchers are studying new ways to prevent progressive kidney damage in African American men and women.

By investigating treatments that address hypertensive kidney disease in its early stages, researchers hope to develop new regimens to manage the condition before it progresses to more damaging ‹ and costly ‹ end stage renal disease.

"The study is designed to examine whether specific antihypertensive agents may protect the kidney independent of their affect on systemic blood pressure," said Dr. Julia G. Breyer, associate professor of Medicine.

In a clinical trial under way at VUMC, researchers are administering one of three types of drugs to participants ‹ calcium channel blockers, ace inhibitors and beta blockers. The trial is part of a nationwide study investigating kidney damage in African Americans and is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

In addition to examining the renoprotective effects of certain drugs, the study is also going to examine the effect of two different levels of blood pressure control on slowing the rate of decline of renal function in patients with kidney damage from high blood pressure, said Breyer.

Kidney disease affects African Americans at a higher rate than any other ethnic group, said Powers. Although they make up 12 percent of the overall population, they account for 30 percent of patients suffering from kidney failure.

"The rate of developing kidney failure due to high blood pressure is 20 fold higher in African Americans than in other populations in the 20 to 44 age range," said Sandra Powers, assistant in the Division of Nephrology.

In an effort to heighten awareness of the study in Nashville's African American community, Joseph E. Armstrong, chairman of Tennessee's Black Caucus of State Legislators, recently asked that caucus members be screened for high blood pressure and kidney disease.

VUMC and Meharry Medical College are two of the 20 centers nationwide participating in the study to prevent African Americans with high blood pressure from having to undergo kidney dialysis.

Both VUMC and Meharry are currently enrolling study participants.

"When someone says that they are interested in participating, we quickly evaluate whether they have kidney damage by drawing blood and looking at serum levels, which indicate kidney disease due to high blood pressure," said Powers.

African American men and women between the ages of 18 and 70 who have high blood pressure and show early signs of kidney disease are eligible for the study.

One of the major goals of the study is to keep people off dialysis. Though it saves lives, the costs can be substantial. For patients with end-stage renal disease the cost for dialysis is approximately $4,800 a month, while the cost for treatment of high blood pressure is approximately $100 a month.

"Though I do wish to support dialysis, because it saves a great deal of lives, I think we would be better served treating people with early signs of kidney damage so that we will not have to resort to dialysis," said Powers.

For more information on the study, contact Powers at 936-1179.