Renal fibrosis, or the scarring of kidneys following an injury, reduces their function and can cause kidney disease to worsen.
Researchers from Duke-NUS Medical School (Duke-NUS) in Singapore and Duke University have shown that a class of drugs in trials to treat some cancers, called Wnt Secretion Inhibitors, may also reduce renal fibrosis and protect the kidneys from further scarring.
Renal fibrosis, or the scarring of kidneys following an injury, reduces their function and can cause kidney disease to worsen. In patients with chronic kidney disease, the extent of their renal fibrosis can usually predict the progression of the disease. There are currently no therapies available to treat or reverse renal fibrosis in chronic kidney disease.
These diseases are debilitating and involve extremely high costs to both the patients and the health care system. An effective drug would allow patients to lead more productive and independent lives. Thus, it is necessary to find alternative treatments for renal fibrosis before it reaches an advanced stage.
The team led by Assistant Professor Babita Madan and Professor David Virshup from Duke-NUS, and Associate Professor Steven D Crowley from Duke University, demonstrated that inhibiting Wnt secretion interrupted the dangerous build-up of scar tissue in the kidney.
“This is the first study to demonstrate that a Wnt Secretion Inhibitor can be useful for preventing renal fibrosis,” explained first author Dr Madan. “There could be potential long-term therapeutic treatments that could arise from this new knowledge, which can be explored for the treatment of additional fibrotic disorders including kidney disease.”
Prof Virshup, Director of the Cancer and Stem Cell Biology Programme at Duke-NUS and Asst Prof Madan, in collaboration with A*STAR, have also developed a novel Wnt Secretion Inhibitor called ETC-159 which is presently in a clinical trial for cancers. Based on the findings of this study, it may be possible to test whether it and other Wnt Secretion Iinhibitors can be used to treat diseases other than cancer.
This research is supported by the Duke/Duke-NUS Research Collaboration Pilot Project Award. The study was recently published in Kidney International.