Type 1 Diabetes Prevention: Promising Research Breakthrough Gives New Hope

June 12, 2019

A research breakthrough by scientists, funded by JDRF, has shown a promising future for the prevention of type 1 diabetes. Findings from a study by TrialNet show that the immunotherapy drug teplizumab can delay type 1 diabetes diagnosis a median of 2 years in children and adults at high risk.

The study showed that teplizumab interferes with the body’s immune destruction of its own beta cells.  Teplizumab has also been used in previous studies and has shown prolonged insulin production in people recently diagnosed. However, this is the first study to test it in people at high risk for the disease. 

“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 study highlights that T1D is an autoimmune disease that can be impacted with immune therapy. All study participants were relatives of people with T1D who had two or more autoantibodies and abnormal blood sugar levels as identified by TrialNet’s Pathway to Prevention study. These individuals are thought to have a lifetime risk of clinical diagnosis nearing 100%. Of the 76 high risk individuals who participated in the study, 55 were under age 18. 

Delaying the progression of type 1 diabetes can have long-term benefits on controlling blood glucose levels and the onset of other complications that can occur with T1D. While it’s still early, the study takes an essential step towards prevention and, ultimately, towards a world without type 1 diabetes.

How was JDRF involved?

TrialNet’s Teplizumab Prevention Study was funded by NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), and JDRF.

Where did the study take place?

This was a global study, part of which also took place in Australia. The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of medical research in collaboration with The Royal Melbourne Hospital is one of twenty-five type 1 diabetes TrialNet international clinical centres, led by Dr Peter Colman and Dr John Wentworth.

What’s next?

This research will be followed up with a much larger study to ensure the efficacy of the drug on a more diverse population as well as its long-term effects.