Cancer Drugs Reverse Type 1 Diabetes in Mice

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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  • CalgaryDiabetic

    Dear Tara. I remember in the middle 50’s the assurance that nuclear power would be so cheap that it would not be worthwhile to meter. However this may give some insight into what causes type 1. For type 1 and type 2 with no pancreas left, the neocons leaving (probably for a long time) may permit a resumption of stem cell research. If one could regrow your own beta cells (and other types of pancreas cells if needed) then existing procedures would produce a cure.

  • Sharon

    There was a study in Canada, performed within the last year or so, where direct injection of cayenne pepper into the pancreases of diabetic mice actually eradicated the disease overnight. I believe the percentage of success was around 90% and it is a well-known substance that is harmless to humans. Please correct me if I’m wrong about the stats — I read about it in a Canadian Newspaper. Eagerly looking forward for the news to hit the U.S. news wires, weeks and months passed before I noticed only a few short scattered blurbs. I wonder if research was ever continued on THAT inexpensive and harmless procedure. Any guesses?

  • David Spero RN

    This cancer drug for Type 1 makes some sense. Type 1 is an autoimmune disease, in which your own immune system attacks the islet cells. Cancer drugs knock the immune system way down, so might stop or slow this process.

    Cancer drugs are being tried for many other autoimmune diseases, including the one I have, MS. The side effects can be pretty extreme, but for a cure or near-cure, might be worth the risk.

  • Cora Nash

    This is great news about the possible cure for type 2 diabetes. Is there any hope of a cure for type 1? I once taught diabetes nutritional education classes, but find it hard to stay with a diet that doesn’t take my blood glucose level into the 200’s plus. I have learned the hard way that is is easy to teach the subject but hard to live it.

    Retired Family Consumer Science Agent

  • rich schultz

    Will this Gleevix (sp) help Type 2 Diabetes the more common or would it be better to avoid all carbs take chromium vanadyl sulfate cinnamon and run or jog an hour a day and cut way back on empty ( all ) calories ? TY Rich Schultz