Double dose of diabetes drug found to reduce the loss of insulin producing cells

by Barbara Hewitt on August 12, 2013

Double dose of diabetes drug found to reduce the loss of insulin producing cells

Double dose of diabetes drug found to reduce the loss of insulin producing cells

Scientists have discovered that a double course of a trial drug for newly diagnosed type 1 diabetics reduces the loss of insulin producing cells. The results of the study have been described as ‘impressive’ and more clinical trials will now take place with the aim of getting the drug approved for general use. It could be the first drug to change the natural course of type 1 diabetes since insulin.

In type 1 diabetes, a malfunction in the immune system’s inflammatory response kills off the beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas. The drug Teplizumab was originally produced by Dr Jeffrey Bluestone of the University of California-San Francisco. Initial studies showed that a single course of the drug, given soon after diagnosis, improved beta cell responses for a year, but the responses waned after that. Also not everyone responded to the drug and the response duration was limited. The reasons why some patients responded better than others and why earlier immune therapies did not induce lasting remissions of the disease were not known.

Now in these latest trials, the team sought to determine whether two courses of the drug, one year apart, would have a better response. The team also hoped to identify the characteristics of patients who responded best. In the randomised, controlled trials, the team treated 52 patients with Teplizumab for two weeks after diagnosis, and again after one year. The results were impressive, according to the researchers. Teplizumab treatment significantly reduced the loss of beta cells after two years. Indeed, the level at year two was, on average, 75% higher in the Teplizumab arm of the trial than in the control group.

Quote from DiabetesForum.com : “Drug Developed by UCSF Researcher Shows Promise for Blocking Advance of Disease in Earliest Stages.”

There was also a sub-group of people of which 45% had a terrific response to the drug. ‘In these patients, there was a threefold improvement in their insulin responses compared to untreated participants,’ said lead researcher Kevan Herold, professor of immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine. ‘After two years, they’d lost less than 10% of their beta cell responses,’ added Herold who is also director of the Yale Autoimmunity Center of Excellence, one of just nine centres of its kind in the country, and deputy director for translational science at the Yale Center for Clinical Investigation.

Herold and his team also studied who responded best among the group of patients. ‘Responders tended to be those who needed less insulin when they first got into the trial and had better control of their blood sugar levels,’ he explained.

The researchers are now hoping to start a phase 3 trial soon that could lead to the Federal Drug Agency approving the drug, but not just for newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes patients. Herold is also principal investigator of a diabetes prevention trial at Yale, to determine whether the same drug can stop the disease in people who are at high risk of developing type 1 diabetes. ‘If approved this would be the first drug to change the natural course of type 1 diabetes since insulin,’ said Herold.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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