Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a global health problem, affecting more than half of adults over 70 years of age. Other than glycemic control in diabetes and use of angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, few specific therapies are available. Fibrosis is a dominant factor in the development and progression of nearly all forms of kidney diseases. Our group has led the development of non-invasive tests to evaluate the severity of fibrosis, in the absence of an invasive kidney biopsy, and we have experience leading clinical trials in CKD. Pirfenidone (Esbriet ) is a first-in-class anti-fibrotic drug that is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). In large-scale, phase 3 studies in IPF patients, pirfenidone showed substantial improvement in forced vital capacity, and significantly reduced the risk of death by 48%. Pharmacokinetic studies and pilot studies show that pirfenidone is safe in the setting of CKD, and have defined the dose of pirfenidone to maximize benefit and minimize side effects in CKD patients. Here, we propose a two-site, double-blind, placebo-controlled, phase 2b trial of pirfenidone 1335 mg/day vs. matched placebo in 160 CKD patients. In our first aim, we will determine the effect of pirfenidone on changes in renal fibrosis measured by diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (DW-MRI). In our second aim, we will determine the effect of pirfenidone on changes in urine biomarkers that are known to reflect the severity of fibrosis on biopsy, and are predictive of progressive loss of kidney function. Finally, prior anti-fibrotic trials in CKD patients lowered serum creatinine in early phase studies, but failed to prevent CKD progression events in phase 3 trials. The lowering of serum creatinine proved to be due to fluid retention rather than improvements in kidney function. To inform the most appropriate method to assess kidney function in a subsequent large- scale phase 3 trial, our 3rd Aim will determine whether the effect of pirfenidone on glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is similar when using measured glomerular filtration rate (GFR) by iohexol compared with GFR estimates obtained from serum creatinine or cystatin C. In the conduct of this trial, we will also obtain additional information about the safety and tolerability of pirfenidone in CKD. If successful, this study will lead directly to a large-scale, phase 3 trial evaluating pirfenidone for prevention of CKD progression in moderate-to- severe CKD. This project is ideally timed because of the combination of strong preliminary data, the FDA approval and widespread use of pirfenidone for IPF, and the enormous unmet need for new CKD treatments.

Public Health Relevance

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects over half of the US population over the age of 70 years, and is characterized by extensive fibrosis in the kidney tissue. There are no specific therapies available to slow the progression of fibrosis in the kidney; however pirfenidone is a new anti-fibrotic drug approved by the FDA for lung disease and holds promise for CKD. This study will conduct a randomized clinical trial in CKD patients to determine if pirfenidone prevents progression of fibrosis in kidney disease over 1 year.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
Research Project--Cooperative Agreements (U01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZDK1)
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Mendley, Susan Ruth
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Veterans Medical Research Fdn/San Diego
San Diego
United States
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