Cancer Treatment to Cure Diabetes?

Without doubt, all of us would like to see a cure for type 1 diabetes in the near future. Surprisingly, the latest research suggests that one diabetes solution may come from a totally unexpected direction. Researchers at UC San Francisco (funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, JDRF) recently found that two common medications used to treat cancer—Imatinib and Sunitnib, sold as Gleevec and Sutent, respectively—may also have the potential to prevent and reverse type 1 diabetes (at least in mice). The two drugs work by blocking tyrosine kinase, an enzyme found inside cells. When the UCSF researchers tested these drugs in mice predisposed to or with type 1 diabetes, they found that the drugs either kept them from developing diabetes or, in 80 percent of those with diabetes, caused its remission after only eight to 10 weeks of treatment. Moreover, the mice had normal blood sugars for some time after the treatment was stopped, suggesting that the drugs may have halted their beta cell destruction, likely by blocking receptors of a tyrosine kinase not previously known to be involved in diabetes: platelet-derived growth factor receptor, or PDGFR. This enzyme regulates cell growth and division, along with playing a key role in inflammation (an underlying cause of beta cell destruction in type 1 diabetes). Of course, all drugs potentially have untoward side-effects, so we’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds on this one.

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