It may be just one stepping stone to a cure, but the founder of BC Diabetes is seeing powerful results in ongoing clinical trials for individuals in the early stages of the disease.
Dr. Tom Elliott administered the study drug ustekinumab (Stelara) during trials in 2021 which showed promising results in treating early-stage type 1 diabetes.
The drug is a commonly prescribed medication proven effective in treating autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, colitis, and psoriasis.
Type 1 diabetes is also caused by someone’s immune system turning on them. Individuals with the disease need to monitor sugar levels several times a day.
It is possible to automate that process and insulin delivery, but it is onerous and expensive. Diabetes can cause blindness, amputation, and potentially death.
One individual who took part in the initial trial has not required insulin for three years and two others have reduced their insulin intake significantly.
“That is truly remarkable,” Dr. Elliott said.
Findings from the study indicate that immunotherapy may facilitate the regeneration of insulin-secreting cells that have been damaged in recently diagnosed individuals.
“So if we get to them early enough we can give them this medication and stop its destruction,” Dr. Elliott added. “The drug is being used by tens of thousands of people, it’s safe, but it’s not approved for type 1 diabetes.”
BC Pharma Care covers the cost of the drug.
Clinical trials in Vancouver are seeking 17 more patients, who must be between the ages of 18 and 35, and diagnosed within the first 100 days of their type 1 diabetes.
Two-thirds of the participants will receive the study drug and the remaining one-third will get a placebo during the 18-month trial.
The results will be published in scientific journals for peer review.
“If the results were very powerful then that would be sufficient to get approval from Health Canada (as well as drug regulators in the U.S. and Europe) to bring to market for everybody with type 1 diabetes,” Dr. Elliott said.
Individuals must be willing to travel to the BC Diabetes clinic in Vancouver 11 times over the trial period, including six overnight trips.
Travel and accommodation expenses will be paid.
For more information bout taking part in the trial email firstname.lastname@example.org.