10 June 2019
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Findings from an international clinical trial involving Australian researchers show a drug that targets the immune system can delay type 1 diabetes (T1D) by two years in children and adults at high risk.

Researchers from The Royal Melbourne Hospital, North America and Europe recently completed a randomised controlled clinical trial to determine if the immune therapy teplizumab could delay the development of type 1 diabetes.

The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine ran for five years and involved 76 children and young adults at very high risk of developing type 1 diabetes. Teplizumab delayed the onset of diabetes by two years.

The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Associate Professor John Wentworth, who led the Australian arm of the study, said the result was a game changer for the type 1 diabetes community.

“These results are incredibly encouraging,” A/Prof Wentworth Endocrinologist and scientist at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research said.

“We have known for over 3 decades how to identify children who are destined to develop type 1 diabetes. Now, for the first time, we have something that will improve their prospects and delay the need to start insulin injections to control blood sugar levels.”

The researchers identified the 76 high-risk study participants by screening more than 200,000 people from type 1 diabetes families, 55 were under age 18.

All participants had two or more type 1 diabetes autoantibodies and abnormal blood sugar levels. Nine in 10 of these participants develop diabetes within 5 years.

“This is an extremely important finding. It demonstrates that immune therapy can delay type 1 diabetes. This evidence will accelerate progress toward a cure by enabling additional clinical trials to develop even better immune therapies for type 1 diabetes,” A/Prof Wentworth said.

“This result also provides hope to type 1 diabetes families and the general community. Previously, we could do a blood test and advise the family that their child will develop diabetes. Now we can do something for these children.”

The Royal Melbourne Hospital is one of 28 sites that participated in the study conducted by TrialNet, the largest clinical trial network ever assembled to discover ways to delay and prevent type 1 diabetes.

This trial is being run in conjunction with several others that will likely have major changes for diabetes worldwide.

This study was partly supported by funding from JDRF, the primary advocacy group for people living with type 1 diabetes and leading funder for T1D research in Australia.

For more information about the current Australian clinical trials follow these links for more details: www.diabetesresearchcentre.org.au/clinical-trials and www.endia.org.au. More information about TrialNet can be found at www.trialnet.org

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