A drug designed to block the advance of type 1 diabetes in its earliest stages
is strikingly effective in the phase 2 clinical trial, U.S. researchers say.
Jeffrey Bluestone, co-leader of the research at the University of California,
San Francisco, said patients who benefited most were those who still had
relatively good control of their blood sugar levels and only a moderate need for
insulin injections when the trial began.
With the experimental drug, teplizumab, they study participants were able to
maintain their level of insulin production for a full two years -- longer than
with most other drugs tested against the disease, Bluestone said.
However, the treatment did not benefit all patients -- about half or more lost
their ability to produce insulin -- a drop similar to many of the controls not
receiving the drug.
Reasons for the different responses are unclear, but likely involve differences
in the metabolic condition of the patients and in the severity of their disease
at the trial's start, the researchers said.
"The benefits of treatment among the patients who still had moderately healthy
insulin production suggests that the sooner we can detect the pre-diabetes
condition and get this kind of drug onboard, the more people we can protect from
the progressive damage caused by an autoimmune attack," Bluestone said in a
Formerly referred to as juvenile diabetes because it disproportionately strikes
children, type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune condition in which the
body's immune system destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas,
The findings were published in the journal Diabetes.