Can a cancer drug prevent diabetes?

Low doses of a drug used to treat cancer might protect against the development of type 1 diabetes, according to new research from the University of Copenhagen.

The medicine, which was tested on mice, appears to protect insulin-producing cells from being destroyed and lowering levels of sterile inflammation, which occurs in chronic conditions.

Viable for humans?

Researchers said the findings are a step toward finding a preventive treatment for type 1 diabetes in humans.

Dan Ploug Christensen, lead author of the study, elaborated:

Diabetes is a growing problem worldwide. Our research shows that very low doses of anticancer drugs used to treat lymphoma - so-called lysine deacetylase inhibitors - can reset the immune response to not attack the insulin-producing cells. We find fewer immune cells in the pancreas, and more insulin is produced when we give the medicine in the drinking water to mice that would otherwise develop type 1 diabetes.

Doses of the medication used in the study were about 100 times lower than those that are used for cancer treatment. The therapy works by blocking the molecules that send inflammation signals to insulin-producing cells. Consequently, the cells aren't exposed to factors that might destroy them when exposed to inflammation, Christensen said.

Clinical trials

The next step, he noted, is to conduct clinical trials to see how the drug affects people who are at risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

The research has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).

Source: University of Copenhagen

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