Cancer Drug Stops Type 1 Diabetes
It appears that a kind of cancer and type 1 diabetes have something in common. That shared thread was uncovered when an international research team discovered that very low doses of a cancer drug helped stop the development of type 1 diabetes in mice.
The startling find could lead scientists to find a way to prevent this disease that causes individuals to depend on daily insulin injections and certain lifestyle habits to stay alive. Already the researchers have seen promising results in tissues samples from organ donors that responded to the cancer drug.
How the cancer drug works
The scientists used very low doses of drugs called lysine deacetylase inhibitors. These medications, which include vorinostat (Zolinza) and givinostat, are used to treat lymphoma, a form of cancer that affects the immune system cells (white blood cells).
The research team, which was headed by experts from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Copenhagen, discovered that very low doses of vorinostat and givinostat given to mouse models of type 1 diabetes in their drinking water until they were 100 to 120 days old reduced the development of diabetes by 38 percent and 45 percent, respectively.
At the same time, the scientists saw a 200 percent increase in pancreatic insulin content. The drugs lowered inflammation and also demonstrated various other positive effects that supported a healthy pancreas and helped ward off destruction of beta cells, which are the cells that produce insulin.
More good news about these potential type 1 diabetes fighters is that the extremely low doses used by the researchers—100 times lower than the doses used in cancer treatment—are known to be safe in children who have certain rheumatic conditions. Since type 1 diabetes develops in childhood, researchers believe they have a good safety margin when using the drug in children.
Type 1 diabetes has no cure, and researchers have been working on a variety of ways to prevent and better treat the disease. Some of their efforts have included
- Work on vaccines
- Discovery of new risk factors
- Dietary factors such as foods that can help produce insulin
The bottom line
According to postdoc Dan Ploug Christensen, the study’s first author, “Our results are a step towards developing a preventive treatment for type 1 diabetes.” Professor Thomas Mandrup-Poulsen, whose laboratory at the Department of Biomedical Sciences served as the center of the research, explained that “the next step is clinical trials to test whether the drug also has an effect on people at risk of developing type 1 diabetes, for example close family members to patients with the disease.”
Christensen DP et al. Lysine deacetylae inhibition prevents diabetes by chromatin-independent immunoregulation and B-cell protection. PNAS 2014; Epub ahead of print 2014 Jan 6
University of Copenhagen