Despite improvements in the past 20 years in glycemic and blood pressure control and the introduction of 'renoprotective'drugs such as renin-angiotensin system blockers, the incidence of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in type 1 diabetes (T1D) is not declining. Novel therapies to complement these interventions are urgently needed. Mounting evidence from prospective studies indicates that moderately elevated serum uric acid is a strong, independent predictor of an increased risk of chronic kidney disease and increased rates of loss of kidney function among T1D persons. To study whether uric acid lowering can reduce glomerular filtration rate (GFR) loss in T1D, we have established the PERL (Preventing Early Renal Function Loss in Diabetes) Consortium including investigators from Joslin Diabetes Center, the Universities of Minnesota, Colorado, Toronto, and Michigan, Northwestern University, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and the Steno Diabetes Center in Denmark. With the support of NIH grant R03 DK094484, the Consortium has designed a three-year, multi-center, double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized clinical trial with the specific aim of evaluating the efficacy of the urate-lowering drug allopurinol, as compared to placebo, in reducing kidney function loss among subjects with T1D. The trial is targeted to T1D patients with microalbuminuria or moderate macroalbuminuria and serum uric acid levels e 4.5 mg/dl, since these are the patients who are at very high risk of having rapid GFR decline and might benefit most from reductions in uric acid levels. Study subjects will be required to have a GFR between 45 and 99 ml/min/1.73 m2, consistent with the goal of intervening relatively early in the course of clinical DN rather than at later stages when structural changes are far advanced and a very large proportion of kidney function has already been lost. The primary endpoint of the study will be the GFR (as measured by iohexol plasma disappearance) at the end of a 2-month wash-out period after the 3-year intervention. Sample size calculations under various dropout and non- adherence scenarios suggest that 240 subjects in each treatment arm would provide at least 80% power to detect a clinically meaningful and achievable reduction in GFR decline in the allopurinol vs. the placebo group. We have recently been funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) to conduct a small pilot study in two centers with 30 subjects/group to pilot all of PERL's clinical research procedures and data flow and management functions. Based on this experience and with the support of grant R34 DK097808, we are now establishing the infrastructure for the pivotal trial so that we will be ready to start recruiting patients as soon as this project is funded. If we demonstrate that allopurinol can halt or slow down GFR decline in T1D subjects, we will provide a safe and inexpensive intervention to prevent or delay kidney failure in T1D that can be applied at the earliest clinically detectable stages of renal injury. It is difficult to overstate how significant this finding would be, both from the perspective of public health and that of persons with diabetes.
If this trial is successful, the reduction in morbidity and mortality resulting from the preventionor delay of ESRD due to the use of allopurinol would have a major impact on the lives of T1D patients as well as on society at large, significantly reducing the human and financial costs associated with diabetic nephropathy. Because of the emphasis on relatively early intervention and its focus on preventing early GFR decline, the proposed trial, if successful, will establish a new paradigm in treatments to slow or prevent progression towards end stage kidney disease in T1D far beyond anything achieved to date.