There’s a lot of talk about diabetes prevention. It’s a huge public health topic, and here’s another reason to support it: Prevention of type 1 diabetes. We’re not quite there, but some exciting new drugs in development are showing hope, according to several studies presented today at Scientific Sessions.
All of the studies look at the potential for preventing the loss of insulin production that happens at the onset of type 1 diabetes. One of these studies found that one drug, known as Abatacept, preserved insulin production for an additional 9.6 months (average) after diagnosis. Although the drug lost effect over time, researchers are hopeful that it can be used in combination with other drugs to help sustain the initial result.
Another study used a combination of two drugs that are currently approved to treat other diseases (Interleukin-2, used to treat cancer, and Rapamycin, which is used in organ transplantation). The goal was to turn off the immune attack on insulin producing cells. Previous studies in laboratory animals had suggested that this might work, but it did not have the same effects in humans. Researchers plan to analyze the data so they can better understand the findings.
Yet another study tried a drug (teplizumab – try saying that three times fast!) in people with newly diagnosed with diabetes. The study had two goals: One was to reduce A1C to less than 6.5% and the other was to reduce the amount of insulin needed to less that 0.5 units per every 2.2 lbs of body weight. Although those goals were not met, they did find that those who took the drug experienced a slower loss of the body’s insulin producing cells, and used less insulin.
Another drug known as DiaPep277 was used in a study with the goal of preventing the destruction of the cells that produce insulin. This drug was designed to make the cells that attack insulin producing cells in type 1 diabetes into protective cells that would shelter the insulin producing cells. This vaccine allowed the body to continue to produce insulin for up to two years after diagnosis.
While none of these studies, or others presented today, have clear answers as to how they may one day be implemented to end type 1 diabetes, they do serve an important purpose. “Presenting the findings together gives researchers an opportunity to discuss what worked in this approach to treating type 1 diabetes, what didn’t, and why,” said Kevan Herold, MD, co-chair of this morning’s symposium. “Hopefully this discussion will help us to determine the best way to move forward as we continue to explore this promising direction of preserving beta cell function, which is critical to ultimately finding a cure.”