Immunotherapy Drug: A New Hope For Diabetes?

Immunotherapy, also called biotherapy, is a treatment focused on raising body’s natural defenses to fight cancer. The concept of this treatment is based on using the cells produced by the body to restore and improve immune system functions. The ultimate goal is to stop the cancer cells from spreading into the other parts of the body, hinder the growth of cancer cells and increase immune system’s ability to stop the disease.

BCDiabetes and University of British Columbia is now approaching a new phase in their search for new drugs to find the cure for cancer. Patients with diagnosed Type 1 diabetes are being recruited for a year-long study. The aim of the research is to create a drug that will allow the patients to eradicate the need for daily insulin shots. The young 20 men and women have to be between the ages of 18-35 and must have been diagnosed with diabetes within the past 100 days. They will be exposed to daily injections of Stelara (ustekinumab), a drug designed to boost the immune system.

Dr. Tom Elliott heads the research at BCDiabetes and has stated that his team has identified a molecule that may qualify as a good candidate to stop the deterioration of insulin-producing cells which is the cause for Type 1 diabetes. Continued studies are being conducted to test the performance of Stelara. It has been previously used to treat psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis with positive results. The drug is now considered for treatment of other illnesses such as diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes has been labeled as juvenile diabetes because the condition mainly affects young people who have not yet completed the full cycle of development. Type 2 diabetes affects middle-aged people who live stationary lives and suffer from weight gain. The study is being conducted to assure that the effects of the new drug do not produce any excessive side effects as in past Stelara wasn’t recommended for the young population.

It is a delicate process to alter the function of the immune system. In healthy people the system works to protect the body from the invasion of bacteria, viruses and infections. Pancreas contains the cells that produce the insulin needed to regulate the levels of blood sugar. People with diabetes are less protected as the immune system is compromised and cannot protect the body properly. The disease hinders the production of insulin-secreting cells leading to failure of kidneys, blindness and other serious conditions including amputations of the limbs.