Dr Lucy Chambers
Head of Research Communications, Diabetes UK
This year marks the centenary of the discovery of insulin, a breakthrough moment when type 1 diabetes was turned from a death sentence into a condition that can be managed.
The discovery has saved millions of lives across the world but, as anyone living with type 1 will tell you, managing type 1 with insulin therapy can be relentless and frustrating. It’s extremely labour intensive and avoiding dangerous blood sugar lows and highs are near impossible.
A positive outcome would mean the world’s first licensed immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes and a step closer to a cure.
Yet today insulin remains the only treatment available for type 1 diabetes. For too long we’ve relied on a treatment that deals only with the symptoms of type 1 diabetes – the lack of insulin. To transform people’s health and lives, we need treatments that target the root cause of type 1 diabetes – the immune system’s attack on the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. This is the hope for immunotherapies.
Immunotherapies transforming how type 1 diabetes is treated in the future treatment
Immunotherapies, currently being tested in clinical trials, are designed to reprogrammereprogram the immune system so that it no longer destroys insulin-producing beta cells are currently being tested in clinical trials. The hope is that in the future, immunotherapies will be used to prevent type 1 diabetes from developing in those at high risk. Therefore, preserving the beta cells that are yet to be destroyed in people with a new type 1 diagnosis, and, eventually, form part of a cure when used alongside beta cell replacement therapy in people already living with type 1.
Making immunotherapies a reality
Currently, there are no licensed immunotherapies for type 1 diabetes in the UK or anywhere else in the world. Diabetes UK is funding research and working with healthcare partners to make immunotherapies a reality in the UK as soon as possible. We are on the cusp of a breakthrough. The UK’s drug approval agency, the MHRA, is right now considering the evidence on an immunotherapy called teplizumab. Clinical trials have shown that teplizumab can delay the onset of type 1 diabetes in those at high risk. The MHRA’s decision is expected in 2022. A positive outcome would mean the world’s first licensed immunotherapy for type 1 diabetes and a step closer to a cure.