A Cancer Drug Called Gleevec Might Slow Type-1 Diabetes.

A Cancer Drug Called Gleevec Might Slow Type-1 Diabetes.

USA- A pill called Gleevec helped turn a killer type of leukemia into a manageable disease is showing that it might also help slow down diabetes. 

In 2008 a study was done on diabetic mice and they were cured by the drug. A follow up to this study was done and a team reported modest effects in adults with type-1 diabetes. This type of diabetes is often referred to as juvenile diabetes and it is caused when the immune system mistakenly destroys insulin-producing cells called beta cells. 

Dr. Stephen Gitelman of the University of California San Franscisco School of Medicine said, tests that were done in 67 adults with type-1 diabetes showed that the drug appeared to boost their body's own production of insulin. He said that on average the people that got the medicine used less insulin. Gitelman stressed that it is a small trial meant to show the drug can safely do in people what it did in mice. 

They just wanted to get a sense if this showed some benefit in adults so they could get to the target population in kids, he said. The team will have to get Food and Drug Administration permission to test the drug in children. 

There is no cure for diabetes and the only treatment is to keep blood sugar under tight control with diet and insulin. Most people who have type-1 diabetes must constantly check their blood sugar throughout the day, administering insulin according to what they are eating and how much they are excercising.

If the dying pancreatic cells could be saved, they might be able to do this less often.

One potential pathway woud be to use thedrug to try and get in as early as possible when there are still as many beta cells remaining as possible and to slow down the progession and potentially even keep people off insulin, said Andy Rakeman, director of discovery research at JDRF, the diabetes research charity that funded the study. He said that it is estimated that when people are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes that they have anywhere between 10 and 15 or maybe even 40 percent of their beta cells still remaining.

Some people maintain beta cell function for years. Researchers used to think all or nearly all of the beta cells were destroyed very rapidly, said Rakeman. 

Gleevec is not a cure for type 1 diabetes but the organization is paying for research and looking at several ways to preserve these cells. Gleevec is a good candidate because its been around for nearly 20 years and while it causes side-effects such as vomiting and a rash, they usually are not severe in the diabetes patients. They are taking an old drug and repurposing it for new use. 

Dr. Gitelman said that his team believes that Gleevac may be taking some of the pressure off the pancreatic beta cells. He is worried that his study may be misunderstood. His team has just finished their research and they rushed to put together a quick presentation to the Diabetes Association meeting. It will be weeks before they analyze the data and put it into a form that can be reviewed by other experts in a medical journal.

It is still early and the message could be misconstrued. Plus, Gleevec is expensive. It costs more than $140,000 a year, according to Dr. Hagop Kantarijian of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. 





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