Research and Clinical Trials

Kidney Transplant Research and Clinical Studies

The same Seattle Children’s doctors who care for children with kidney failure also do research to improve patients’ quality of life.

Because of past research, the care our doctors give is better and kidneys last longer after a transplant. Our young patients also have access to promising new treatments we are exploring today.

Better Care Because of Research

Researching new approaches helps us develop promising treatments for our patients sooner.

Better mixes of medicines

We are researching better mixes of drugs to prevent children’s bodies from rejecting their new kidney without increasing their risk of complications like infection. This is called immunosuppression.

Steroids are used less today because of research by Seattle Children’s doctors.

Increasing transplant success

Because of research, we now use intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) and the drug rituximab together to increase transplant success in patients at high risk of rejection.

These patients have high levels of “anti-donor” antibodies. The treatment modifies the immune system. Without it, children would wait a long time for a donor kidney.

Improved Quality of Life After Transplant

Medicine schedules

Anti-rejection medicine is key to keeping a new kidney healthy. Managing a medicine schedule takes careful attention.

We are testing ways to help teens take their medicine using a high-tech pill box that can send text messages. Dr. Jodi Smith, medical director of our Kidney Transplant program, is leading Seattle Children’s effort in the multicenter TAKE-IT study.

Skipping a trip to the lab

Our research has led to better ways to track whether kids are getting the right dose of anti-rejection medicine – without a trip to the lab. It’s easier for children and teens to take their drugs on schedule if they don’t have to coordinate with lab hours.

Patients used to come to the lab for a daily blood test right before they took their medicine. This is because drug doses are adjusted based on the lowest level of medicine in the blood (trough level).

Now, patients can do a finger-prick blood test at home and mail it to Seattle Children’s. If lab work shows the dose needs to be changed, nurses follow up with a call to the patient and family. After a few days of the new dose, the drug level can be rechecked with another finger-prick test at home.

Donor antibodies and organ rejection

We are also studying damage from viral infections and how donor-specific antibodies affect the risk of organ rejection.

International Partnerships Improve Kidney Transplants for Children

Our leadership in international groups lets us share our expertise and learn from the experience of pediatric kidney transplant centers across North America. Sharing information helps us know more quickly what works and what does not.

We also take part in studies with other centers (multicenter studies). Clinical research studies give our patients access to new treatment options sooner.

Seattle Children’s helps lead the North American Pediatric Renal Transplant Cooperative Study (NAPRTCS). This organization tracks and collects the health outcomes of children receiving kidney transplants across North America.

Dr. Andre Dick, Seattle Children’s transplant surgeon, used data from the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR) to study how obesity affects transplant results.

Our doctors also have used the registry to compare outcomes and costs of kidney transplants vs. dialysis. Dr. Jodi Smith is SRTR’s senior staff for pediatrics.