Researchers have reported that Gleevec, a wonder drug that has effectively treated leukemia and other cancers, may reverse Type 1 Diabetes too. These experiments were conducted on mice and it has been observed that not only did it prevent and cure diabetes, but also led to long term remission of diabetes even after discontinuation of therapy.
The cancer drugs like Geevec treat cancer by inhibiting a small subset of tyrosine kinases, which are enzymes that modify cells signalling protein through biochemical change. Kinases are therefore agents of proliferation that cause inflammation and cancer.
Since type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune response which destorys insulin secreting cells in pancreas, the scientists sought to determine if one or more of the tyrosine kinases blocked by the cancer drugs might also be responsible for the destructive inflammation in the pancreas. If so, the drugs might be a promising discovery to treat diabetes.
This is an encouraging sign since this new class of compounds may modulate auto immunity. It is a potentially good discovery since it has been observed that with other diabetes reversing drugs, when the drug is stopped the disease comes back immediately. On the other hand it has been observed that in case of cancer drugs prolonged remission of diabetes occurs even after the drug is discontinued.
The only thing that is working against this drug is that its potential safety is still unknown. Another drug called Rituxan was designed to wipe out immune cells called B lymphocytes. These cells multiply out of control and result into lymphoma. They are also known to destroy insulin producing cells.
When Rituxan is administered to a patient it makes body produce more insulin initially.However it was observed that over a period as the effects of the drug faded, the insulin production begin to decline. Thus cancers drugs may spell good news for diabetics, but more research is needed.