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Defeat Diabetes
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Trial Using Cancer Meds To Control And Possibly Reverse Diabetes

Posted: Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Drug can possibly kill off the T-cells that are attacking the betacells.

Type 1 diabetes, an immune system disorder where white blood cells called T-cells attack the insulin-producing pancreas cells called betacells.

Now, for the first time, Indiana University researchers are turning to a cancer drug called rituximab to see if it can increase insulin production. Researchers are testing the cancer drug on recently diagnosed type-one diabetes patients who are at least eight years old.

Dr. Mark Pescovitz, an Immunologist on the study, says they are hoping to shut off the immune attack to the pancreas in type 1 diabetes. He says the medication was originally developed as a drug to kill lymphoma, a type of B-cell cancer. The drug may also work on type 1 diabetes because B-cells feed the T-cells that attack the pancreas.

"If the B-cells aren't serving the T-cells the food, they starve, they die and the immune reaction shuts off" he explains.

If the treatment works, it could help young patients like Kelli avoid long-term complications like vision loss, kidney damage and amputation. Dr. Pescovitz is hopeful "what we're hoping is that we will get rid of the B-cells that are causing the damage, new B-cells will be developing that are not specifically targeting the pancreas and therefore induce what we call a state of tolerance."

It is possible patients could produce their own insulin and depend much less on insulin injections. There's a slight chance it could even reverse the disease.

Source: Diabetes In Control

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