New Treatment May Slow Type 1 Diabetes

An experimental treatment that targets immune system cells may slow the progression of type 1 diabetes.

Researchers found six consecutive days of treatment with an antibody called ChAglyCD3 preserved insulin-making cells. The study participants reduced their need for insulin injections up to 1.5 years later.

In type 1 diabetes, insulin-secreting cells of the pancreas (beta cells) are progressively destroyed by the immune system. A loss of insulin-secreting beta cells causes people to rely more heavily on insulin injections to keep their blood-sugar levels under control.

Researchers show that treatment with the ChAglyCD3 antibody -- which targets immune system cells -- may slow the progression of the disease. Treatment given shortly after diagnosing type 1 diabetes prevented further loss of insulin-secreting beta cells in the pancreas.

However, these results are only preliminary and the benefits of the experimental treatment were not without risk. The side effects of the treatment included a flu-like illness and mononucleosis symptoms, such as sore throat, fever, and enlarged lymph nodes.

Further study will be needed before the treatment can be considered for approval by the FDA for widespread use.

Read WebMD's "Reference: Treating Diabetes With Insulin"

Antibody Treatment for Type 1 Diabetes?

In the study, 80 people recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes were assigned to receive six consecutive days of an intravenous treatment with the antibody or a placebo. The participants were then followed for 1.5 years. Their daily insulin needs and pancreatic function were measured during follow-up.

In the study, those who received the placebo showed a progressive increase in their insulin dose. However, those taking the experimental treatment did not.

The beneficial effects of the antibody treatment were greatest among patients who had more insulin-secreting beta cell function at the start of the study. Among this group, the average daily insulin dose 1.5 years after treatment was minimal compared with those who received the placebo.

In an editorial that accompanies the study, Ake Lernmark, DrMed, of the University of Washington, says if this type of antibody treatment can be proven safe, their use in combination with other treatments may lead to better therapies for type 1 diabetes.

Read WebMD's "Important Tips for Diabetes Prevention"

By Jennifer Warner, reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

SOURCE: Keymeulen, B. The New England Journal of Medicine, June 23, 2005; vol 352: pp 2598-2608.