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Clinical trials for diabetes treatment underway


A series of clinical trials have been launched to determine the efficacy of a potential new treatment for type 1 diabetes, which could eventually enable patients to substantially reduce the frequency of insulin injections.

Rather than having to inject several times a day, sufferers would only need to do so once a week if the treatment, which is spearheaded by experts at Addenbrooke's Hospital and the University of Cambridge, proves successful in trials.

The formulation of the therapy is the direct result of research to understand the genetics of the disease, which can severely impact people's quality of life and lead to disability or even death.

Through their analysis, scientists determined that variants of one particular gene - known as interleukin-2, or IL2 - have a prominent role in the development of type 1 diabetes, as IL-2 is important in helping regulate the immune system.

The researchers are now investigating whether interleukin-2 in the form of a drug called aldesleukin (Proleukin) can be used to slow or even stop the damage to the pancreas in people with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes and, if so, what dose of the drug is required for optimum results.

The study is being led by Dr Frank Waldron-Lynch, from the university's Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, who said his aim is to use aldesleukin to rebalance the immune system so that patients can slow the progression of the disease and significantly reduce the number of insulin injections needed.

Results among the first two trial participants have so far proven successful, even on a very low dose, with no detectable side-effects, Dr Waldron-Lynch commented.

The experts are now aiming to recruit more participants to the 'adaptive study of IL-2 dose on regulatory T cells in type 1 diabetes' (DILT1D) in a bid help determine whether the drug is effective and at what dose.

Professor John Todd, from the JDRF/Wellcome Trust Diabetes and Inflammation Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, said that studying the genetics of type 1 diabetes has proved "essential" in helping experts to understand what is happening in the disease at a cellular and molecular level.

"This type of research takes time, but we are now beginning to test its true potential for improving the lives of patients in our innovative translational medicine programme," he concluded.

Posted by Neil Clark

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