A new research initiative is being formed by JDRF — one of the world’s leading type 1 diabetes research and advocacy organizations — along with the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy and the Helmsley Charitable Trust, according to an announcement from JDRF.
The partnership aims to explore the relationship between immunotherapy for cancer — one of the first-line treatments for many cancer types — and a type of insulin-dependent diabetes that can develop as a result. After treatment with a group of immunotherapy drugs called checkpoint inhibitors, about 1% of people develop this form of diabetes, which resembles type 1, according to a study published last year in the journal Diabetes.
The organizations will contribute a total of $10 million to fund research that aims “to understand, predict and prevent insulin-dependent diabetes following checkpoint therapy for cancer,” according to the announcement. It’s the first collaborative effort among major cancer and diabetes research organizations.
But the research could lead to other discoveries, as well. By gaining a better understanding of how immunotherapy drugs start or accelerate the process of autoimmunity in the pancreas, scientists might find new avenues to slow or stop the similar process that plays out in type 1 diabetes.
“This collaboration combines leading experts in diabetes and cancer immunology to accomplish a feat that has never been achieved: permanently turning off an autoimmune response in humans,” says Aaron J. Kowalski, PhD, president and CEO of JDRF. “Investing in this research will help us better understand how type 1 diabetes develops, and potentially disable the immune system so that disease progression never happens.”
The initiative will include researchers at the Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut, the UCSF Diabetes Center in San Francisco, the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason in Seattle and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.