Cancer Drugs Reverse Type 1 Diabetes in Mice

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According to a new animal study, a class of cancer-fighting drugs may have some Type-1-diabetes–fighting potential. The study found that treating mice that had recently developed Type 1 diabetes with the drugs imatinib (brand name Gleevec) and sunitinib (Sutent) sent the condition into remission in 80% of them.

The study was conducted by researchers at the Diabetes Center at the University of California, San Francisco, and was published online this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (you can read the abstract here). The researchers found that treating mice that had a mouse form of prediabetes for seven weeks with these drugs prevented them from developing diabetes, and that treating mice that had recently developed a mouse form of Type 1 diabetes for 8–10 weeks with the drugs reversed diabetes in 80%. What’s more, the majority of the mice whose diabetes had been reversed remained in remission after the drug regimen was stopped.

The study also gave scientists more information about substances in the body (such as platelet-derived growth factor, or PDGF) that might be involved in the development of Type 1 diabetes.

Whether the drugs could have the same effect and work safely in humans is not yet known and will require further research. The scientists have applied for funding for human trials.

While these findings may be promising, this is not the first time diabetes has been “cured” in a mouse model. For instance, you can read my blog entry “Diabetes Reversed in Mice Through Nervous System Treatment” from December, 2006. Mice were also cured of diabetes in 2001 by Dr. Denise Faustman, using a different method, and human trials based on her work began in January 2008; you can read more about her research here. In fact, a response issued to the new study this week from Dr. Faustman highlighted the differences between her research and the new study, saying that “Dr. Faustman’s trial is unique because the goal is to reverse established diabetes, not just halt new onset Type 1 diabetes.”

For the perspective of a person living with Type 1 diabetes on this new study, check out Eric Lagergren’s blog entry “The Stir, or Lack Thereof, Over A Cure.”

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