NBT Researcher

Renal Current Research

North Bristol NHS Trust is a centre of excellence for the delivery of care for people with renal impairment. We are also home to the main kidney transplant centre in the South West.

Our experienced research team works collaboratively with a number of other research teams including diabetes and cancer to deliver cross-functional complex studies in addition to studies focused solely within the renal service.

Please speak to the person treating you to find out if there is a research study that may be able to help you.

Current Studies:


End-stage kidney disease (ESKD) affects ~55,000 people in the UK, with ~7,000 newly affected people each year. It ranks among the most severe of the chronic non-communicable diseases. Morbidity is high, with dialysis patients in the UK admitted to hospital on average ~1.5-2.0 times per year and spending ~15 days in hospital per year. Quality of life on dialysis is also well below that of the general population. There is therefore an unmet and urgent need to improve ESKD patient treatment.

Renal replacement therapy (dialysis or transplantation) is necessary when patients become symptomatic of ESKD. Currently ~90% of dialysis patients are on some form of haemodialysis (HD) or haemodiafiltration (HDF). Although HD and HDF can be performed at home, the majority is performed in-centre.

Treating the 25,000 people on HD costs around £500m of NHS spending each year, with a further £75m spent on hospital admissions and £50m on transport to and from dialysis. Half of patients now starting dialysis are 65 years or older and less likely to be fit for kidney transplantation and in the general population this group is predicted to increase by 60% (from 10.3m to 16.9m) by 2035. While preventing ESKD in the first place should remain a priority, the optimal form of dialysis will remain highly relevant to the NHS.

This study aims to establish the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of high-volume HDF compared with high-flux HD in adult patients with ESKD on maintenance thrice weekly in-centre HD. We will do this by running a randomised controlled trial using non-cancer mortality or hospital admission due a cardiovascular event or infection as our primary outcome.

For more information about this study, please visit the H4RT website.

Project Details
Principal Investigator: Dr Fergus Caskey
Planned End Date: 30/09/2025
Local Ref: 3859

Prepare for Kidney Care

When kidney function drops to 15% of normal, symptoms such as tiredness, loss of appetite and sickness usually develop. At this stage, dialysis or kidney transplantation is considered. Not all patients are suitable for a kidney transplant so the following treatment options may be being considered:

  • To prepare for renal dialysis if things progress – this involves visiting the hospital for 4 hours of treatment 3 times a week, or flushing fluid in and out of the body through the abdomen 4 times a day every day at home.
  • To have all supportive treatment and care, but not plan to start renal dialysis even if things progress – this focuses on controlling symptoms with medication and aims to minimise hospital clinic visits and admissions. 

Surprisingly, for people over 65 with other health problems, survival and quality of life seem to be similar with these options. As a result, doctors and nurses seem to give quite different advice to their patients and the treatment people choose depends a lot on which renal unit they attend. More evidence is needed, therefore, to help patients and their families make an informed decision about the right treatment for them.

 The Prepare study is a randomised controlled trial which aims to provide far better evidence to help patients and their families reach the best decision for them and influence NHS policy on care for this group of patients.

For more information about this study, please visit the Prepare for Kidney Care website.

Project Details
Principal Investigator: Dr Fergus Caskey
Planned Recruitment End Date: May 2024
Report findings to NIHR August 2025

Local Ref: 3858a

Cholecalciferol in Patients on Dialysis - SIMPLIFIED

Vitamin D deficiency is common in kidney failure and is a strong predictor of death from cardiovascular disease, infections and cancer. Dialysis patients typically receive pre-activated vitamin D, since it used to be thought that only the kidneys activate vitamin D. However, this increases blood calcium concentrations and may paradoxically make vitamin D deficiency worse. International treatment guidelines now recommend that kidney patients receive inactive vitamin D (known as cholecalciferol), since we now know that every organ activates vitamin D as required, even in kidney failure. However, this approach has not yet been tested in a trial. We will test whether supplementation with cholecalciferol increases survival in UK dialysis patients.

We will randomly assign adult UK dialysis patients to cholecalciferol or standard care.

We will determine the number of deaths over time in the two groups, to establish whether cholecalciferol improves survival. Whether patients are alive or dead at the end of the study will be determined from the national deaths register. We will also measure any differences in survival free from cardiovascular events, infections and cancers, the three leading causes of death in those on dialysis. We will use questionnaires to compare the quality of life of those in the two groups.

Currently only 68% of patients survive 3 years or more on dialysis. Assuming that this will be the case in the control group, we would need to witness 2200 deaths during the study to determine with a sufficient degree of certainty whether cholecalciferol improves survival. We estimate that this would require the inclusion of 4200 patients, followed for a total study duration of approximately 7 years. Put differently, this trial is designed to detect whether cholecalciferol has a clinically relevant effect by saving 4 or more lives for every 100 patients treated.

Project Details
Principal Investigator: Dr James Bushnell
Planned End Date: 01/03/2023
Local Ref: 4021

NephroS: The National Study of Nephrotic Syndrome (NURTuRE)

A study to correlate the epidemiological and clinical features of Steroid Resistance Nephrotic Syndrome including FSGS (Focal Segmental GlomeruloSclerosis) in childhood and Adulthood, in the UK, with genotype and to develop biomarkers of disease activity post-transplant.

Project Details
Principal Investigator: Dr Simon Satchell
Planned End Date: 31/12/2021
Local Ref: 2854


The National Registry of Rare Kidney Diseases (RaDaR) is a research initiative by UK kidney specialists (the Renal Association and the UK Renal Registry). It is designed to gather information from patients who have rare kidney diseases. This will give a much better understanding of how these illnesses affect people. It will help to improve treatment and identify possible causes of these rare diseases.

As patient information is entered into the database, researchers will be able to analyse whether certain aspects of their condition (e.g. laboratory results or treatments) are associated with specific benefits or complications. By allowing the research team to link this data with that gathered from other clinical studies, researchers will also be able to study the long-term outcome of these rare conditions and any treatments they may receive.

Project Details
Principal Investigator: Dr Albert Power
Planned End Date: 09/10/2024
Local Ref: 2962


Primary systemic vasculitidies (PSV), encompassing Anti-Neutrophil Cytoplasmic Antibody (ANCA) associated vasculitis and medium vessel vasculitis, are relatively uncommon diseases, but have a propensity for renal involvement and account for a significant number of patients with both acute and chronic kidney disease. The aetiology of PSV is unknown and current therapies are non-specific and associated with major side effects. Outcome data for such patients have comprised small cohort studies from single centres. Understanding the factors that influence disease outcome and the impact different therapies have outside of clinical trials can only be achieved using a larger number of patients, accrued from multiple different units.

We propose to establish the first pan-UK PSV dataset, which will collect regular returns regarding patient recruitment and outcome from all participating centres. This will facilitate investigation of disease associations, outcomes and demographic trends for the UK PSV population. We will test the hypothesis that disease incidence is increasing in Indo-Asians and why the outcome may be different among different ethnic groups, as well as investigating contemporary outcomes with modern immunosuppressive protocols. In addition, we will combine clinical phenotype with genetic studies. Specifically we will investigate genetic variation between ethnic groups by looking at variations in DNA sequences that can help to explain differences in disease susceptibility. These are investigated using many DNA specific markers, called single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) whose expression will be compared between patients from different ethnic groups.

Finally, we will be able to record the outcome of all patients treated with novel therapeutics, thus eliminating the significant reporting bias that exists. This will allow individual investigators to carry out particular projects mining the dataset.

Project Details
Principal Investigator: Dr Albert Power
Planned End Date: 28/02/2022
Local Ref: 3724

UK Calciphylaxis

Calciphylaxis is a rare condition which results in small arteries becoming calcified. This results in painful ulceration of the skin which in turn can result in infection and further damage to tissue. It is associated with a high mortality rate (60–80%).

Consequently, research into this area is important. The aims of this study are to determine the following:

  • What is the natural history of the disease?
  • What risk factors are associated with development and progression of calciphylaxis?
  • Which treatments currently in clinical practice confer a favourable outcome?
  • What are the underlying disease processes?

These aims will be achieved by collecting information on medications, clinical parameters, local laboratory tests, measuring specific proteins and molecules in blood and tissue as well as studying patient’s DNA profiles.

Project Details
Principal Investigator: Mrs Saira Risdale
Planned End Date: 01/09/2021
Local Ref: 2970


This application relates to Phase 2 of the UNPACK study. Phase 1 - a qualitative interview study - informed Phase 2: a discrete choice experiment. Phase 2 uses the same screening and recruitment processes as in Phase 1. This application covers piloting of the study at a single site. It is our intention to expand to more sites following an amendment. This application will be submitted to the Research Ethics Committee that reviewed Phase 1.

Individuals at risk of kidney failure must choose between transplantation, dialysis, and non-dialysis care (also known as ‘comprehensive conservative care’ - CCC). Older people are rarely medically suitable for transplantation and are more likely to choose CCC than younger people. This may be because they don’t want intrusive treatment and are willing to live shorter lives to avoid it. Dialysis is particularly burdensome for them, with marginal survival benefit. People close to them, such as family members, are also involved in decision-making, but may be less willing to consider reduced survival to avoid treatment burden.

The trade-offs that older UK patients and those close to them are prepared to make have never before been quantified. Phase 1 of the UNPACK study used qualitative interviews to identify they treatment attributes and outcomes important to older people with kidney disease and those close to them when deciding between dialysis or CCC.

The discrete choice experiment is a questionnaire based on hypothetical treatment scenarios that measures treatment preferences of older people at risk of kidney failure and those close to them. The process will quantify and compare the importance of the treatment attributes (location and frequency) and outcomes (quality and quantity of life) identified in Phase 1. The results of this process will be used to inform the development of kidney services that fit better with the preferences of individuals using them.

Project Details
Principal Investigator: Dr Albert Power
Planned End Date: 31/10/2022
Local Ref: 4764


Researchers want to find out if the drug bardoxolone methyl can improve the disease ADPKD (autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease).

Bardoxolone methyl is an investigational (experimental) drug that is being tested and is currently not approved by any regulatory agency for sale. It is a semi-synthetic (man-made) substance based on the scaffold of the natural product oleanolic acid. Bardoxolone methyl was shown to inhibit inflammation-mediated processes and to improve parameters of kidney function in multiple clinical studies.

In this study, bardoxolone methyl will be given to participants as a capsule (pill).

The study has two main purposes:

  • To see if bardoxolone methyl pills are safe and well tolerated in patients with ADPKD
  • To see if bardoxolone methyl pills improve the estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), a measure of kidney function

The study plans to enrol approximately 300 patients with ADPKD who are between the age of 18 and 70 years at up to 100 global study centres.

Project Details
Principal Investigator: Dr Albert Power
Planned End Date: 31/12/2021
Local Ref: 4870


The ALIGN clinical trial is looking into a new tablet and it’s effectiveness in treating IgA Nephropathy, a disease which affects the tiny filters in the kidneys and their ability to remove ‘waste’ from the body which can lead to End Stage Kidney Disease and the need for Dialysis. Atrasentan has been developed by Chinook Therapeutics and has previously shown positive results in over 5000 people with diabetic kidney disease. In this study the tablet is taken once a day for 2.5 years. The trial is placebo-controlled meaning there is a 50/50 chance of receiving the trial drug or an inactive placebo, and to reduce bias, neither participants or their Doctors will know which they receive. 


A dedicated study team of nurses and doctors will care for participants during their time on the study, in partnership with their usual kidney doctors, and will see the participants in clinic approx. every 12 weeks, after a few weekly visits initially.


IgA Nephropathy currently has no approved treatments other than generic blood-pressure control and doctors are excited about the prospect of a treatment to delay the progression of this disease.


Principal Investigator: Dr Albert Power

Planned End Date: March 2023

Internal Reference: 5160


Individuals on dialysis are at risk of developing heart problems such as heart attacks and heart failure as well as high blood pressure. There is an urgent need for treatments that reduce the risk of heart problems in patients that require dialysis. Spironolactone is a tablet that is approved in the UK and has been used for over 50 years to treat heart problems in patients that do not require dialysis. Spironolactone belongs to a class of medicines called mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists (MRAs) and works by blocking a hormone called aldosterone in the body that can damage the heart.

Although spironolactone is very effective in patients that do not require dialysis, it is not known if spironolactone is effective in dialysis patients. We hope that this study will help determine if spironolactone works in dialysis patients. The purpose of this study is to determine if taking spironolactone will reduce death or hospitalization for heart failure and to see if it is well tolerated in patients that require dialysis.

Eligible participants will be asked to take spironolactone for 7-14 weeks to make sure it is safe for them. This is done by checking potassium results on weeks 1,2,3 and 7.  In the next part of the study, the participant will either be assigned to take the spironolactone tablet or a placebo (a tablet with no active medication) once a day.

Project Details
Principal Investigator: Dr Albert Power
Planned End Date: 31 Dec 2023
Local Ref: 4891

Paused Studies:


There is a great shortage of kidneys for transplantation. All kidneys from deceased donors carry risk to the recipient (risk of not working, or of disease transmission), but donor age is strongly associated with poor function and early failure of the kidney transplant. This is important, because the majority of the pool of potential UK deceased donors are now over 60 years old. Thus, if we can improve our identification of kidneys from older donors that are better ‘quality’, we can maximise numbers of transplants performed without compromising transplant outcomes.

The use of urgent kidney biopsy (analysis of a small portion under the microscope) to identify age-related damage has been reported to aid selection of those kidneys from older donors that are good enough ‘quality’ for transplantation. This approach has not been widely adopted in the UK, because the exact impact that the extra information provided by biopsy has on transplant numbers and on transplant outcomes is not clear, and its cost effectiveness remains unproven.

Our study will evaluate whether providing an urgent 24 hour National Biopsy Service increases the number and function of kidneys transplanted from donors aged over 60 years. The study is a national trial: every four months a randomly-chosen group of UK kidney transplant centres will be offered access to the National Biopsy Service (a ‘stepped-wedge cluster randomised trial’). By the end of the trial, all UK centres will have access, and we will then compare results for each centre from before and after the biopsy service was made available as well as evaluating the cost of providing the service. We anticipate that this comparison will show that biopsy availability increases the use of kidneys from elderly donors by about 10%, which equates to an additional 180 kidney transplants performed in the UK per year.

Project Details
Principal Investigator: Dr Samuel Turner
Planned End Date: 31/01/2022
Local Ref: 4119

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Research & Development
North Bristol NHS Trust
Level 3, Learning & Research building
Southmead Hospital
Bristol, BS10 5NB

Telephone: 0117 4149330
Email: research@nbt.nhs.uk