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Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2018 Mar 1;33(3):523-530. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfw474.

Oral ghrelin receptor agonist MK-0677 increases serum insulin-like growth factor 1 in hemodialysis patients: a randomized blinded study.

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Division of Nephrology, University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, Charlottesville, VA, USA.
PBHS Public Health Sciences Administration, Public Health Sciences, University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, Charlottesville, VA, USA.
Division of Endocrinology, University of Virginia Health Sciences Center, Charlottesville, VA, USA.



Protein-energy wasting (PEW) in end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients is associated with increased morbidity and mortality, but options for treatment are limited. Growth hormone (GH) increases insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1), with improved nutritional parameters, but must be given subcutaneously and does not provide normal GH secretion patterns. MK-0677, an oral ghrelin receptor agonist (GRA), maintains normal GH secretion and increases lean body mass in normal subjects; it has not been studied in dialysis patients, an essential step in assessing efficacy and safety prior to clinical trials.


We performed a randomized crossover double-blind study in assessing the effect of MK-0677 versus placebo on IGF-1 levels, the primary outcome, in hemodialysis patients. In total, 26 subjects enrolled and 22 completed the 3-month crossover study.


The geometric mean IGF-1 was 1.07-fold greater [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.89-1.27; P = 0.718] after placebo. In patients receiving MK-0677, the geometric mean IGF-1 were 1.76-fold greater (95% CI 1.48-2.10; P < 0.001) following MK-0677. When the data were adjusted for preintervention IGF-1 concentration, the ratio of geometric means (MK-0677 relative to placebo) for the pre- versus postintervention change in the IGF-1 was 1.65 (95% CI 1.33-2.04; P < 0.001). These data demonstrate a 65% greater increase (95% CI 33-104%) in IGF-1 in MK-0677-dosed subjects compared with placebo. There were no serious adverse effects attributable to MK-0677.


MK-0677 increased serum IGF-1 levels with minimal adverse effects in hemodialysis subjects. Studies are needed to evaluate whether long-term therapy with MK-0677 improves PEW, lean body mass, physical strength, quality of life and survival in CKD/ESRD patients.

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