New horizons: delaying diabetes in children

New horizons: delaying diabetes in children

Illuminate newsletter index page, September 2019
September 2019

Clinician-scientist Associate Professor John Wentworth led
the Australian arm of a clinical trial that was able to delay the
onset of type 1 diabetes.

A five-year international clinical trial has found that type 1 diabetes can be delayed by an immune therapy.

The study found that the onset of type 1 diabetes in high-risk children and young adults was delayed by two years using the immune therapy teplizumab.

Giving children more time

Associate Professor John Wentworth, a clinician-scientist at the Institute and The Royal Melbourne Hospital, led the Australian arm of the Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet Study. He said the result was promising news.

“This result provides hope to families living with type 1 diabetes,” said Associate Professor Wentworth.

“We have known for more than three decades how to identify children who are destined to develop type 1 diabetes. Previously, we could offer a blood test that would indicate whether a child was likely to develop diabetes. Now we can actually do something to help these at-risk children and delay their diabetes,” he said.

A global effort

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved 76 children and young adults at very high risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

The researchers identified the participants by screening more than 200,000 people with a family connection to type 1 diabetes from around the world.

Of these, 44 received a 14-day course of teplizumab injections and 32 received placebo injections. Participants were then monitored to see how quickly they developed diabetes.

Over five years, 72 per cent of people who received the placebo developed diabetes compared to only 43 per cent who received teplizumab. The development of diabetes also occurred two years later in the teplizumab group.

Just the beginning

Associate Professor Wentworth said the trial would continue to inform the development of a better diagnostic test and therapies for type 1 diabetes.

“Samples from the study will help us develop better ways to identify the ‘immune storm’ that we believe pushes people into a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes," he said.

“A better test will help us work out the best time to treat people with immune therapy and to monitor its effectiveness.”

More information

For information about type 1 diabetes trials, contact Felicity Healy and Leanne Redl at The Royal Melbourne Hospital on 03 9342 7063.

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