Breakthrough diabetes research funded by the JDRF and presented by scientists at the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA’s) 80th Virtual Scientific Sessions in June 2020 has shown that the immunotherapy drug teplizumab may delay the diagnosis of type 1 diabetes diagnosis in high risk children and adults by up to 3 years.
Original trial results in 2019 indicated a delay of up to 2 years, but updated results from the most recent clinical trial demonstrated that the effect of the drug had been sustained even longer. Half of the people taking teplizumab remained diabetes-free after 3 years, compared with 22% of those taking placebo.
The global study by TrialNet was partly carried out in Australia in collaboration with The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research and The Royal Melbourne Hospital.
“These results are very encouraging and the first time ever that any drug has delayed diagnosis by 2 years in people at high risk of type 1 diabetes,” explains Dr Dorota Pawlak, Head of Research Development at JDRF Australia and Director of the Australian Type 1 Diabetes Clinical Research Network. “A two-year delay can make a huge impact, as anyone living with T1D can tell you. Every single day without it matters.”
This research study highlights that type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition that can be impacted with immune therapy. All study participants were relatives of people with type 1 diabetes who had two or more autoantibodies and sub-optimal blood glucose levels as identified by TrialNet’s Pathway to Prevention study. Each individual was thought to have a lifetime risk of developing type 1 diabetes of almost 100%. Of the 76 high risk individuals who participated in the study, 55 were under age 18.
While it’s still early, the study takes an essential step towards understanding possible mechanisms to prevent type 1 diabetes. More clinical trials and studies will be required.