Despite several decades of development in renal replacement therapy, end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients continue to have markedly increased morbidity and mortality especially caused by cardiovascular disease (CVD). This shows that current strategies, e.g. the focus on dialysis adequacy, to improve the clinical outcome in ESRD patients have to be complemented by novel approaches. Although traditional risk factors are common in dialysis patients they cannot alone explain the unacceptably high prevalence of CVD in this patient group. Much recent interest has therefore focused on the role of various nontraditional cardiovascular risk factors, such as inflammation, vascular calcification and oxidative stress. Recent studies show that genetic factors, such as DNA single nucleotide polymorphisms, may significantly influence the immune response, the levels of inflammatory markers, as well as the prevalence of atherosclerosis in this patient group. To elucidate the respective roles of DNA polymorphisms in genes that encode inflammatory markers (such as IL-10, IL-6 and TNF-alpha) and other factors that may affect the development of atherosclerosis (such as apolipoprotein E, transforming growth factor and fetuin-A), sufficiently powered studies are needed in which genotype, the protein product and the specific phenotype all are analysed in relation to outcome. The recent developments in the field of genetics have opened up entirely new possibilities to understand the impact of genotype on disease development and progress and thus offer new options and strategies for treatment. It seems conceivable that in the near future, prognostic or predictive multigene DNA assays will provide the nephrological community with a more precise approach for the identification of "high-risk" ESRD patients and the development of accurate individual treatment strategies. For this purpose, integrative studies on genotype-phenotype associations and impact on clinical outcome are needed.