At the world’s largest diabetes research conference, held last month, JDRF-funded researchers highlighted exciting breakthroughs and vital work that is paving the way to new type 1 diabetes therapies. More than 18,000 physicians, researchers, health care professionals and patient advocates attended the event, which highlights the latest findings in all major areas of the diabetes research and treatment field.

Three JDRF projects headlined an extended lineup of research projects at the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) 77th Scientific Sessions in San Diego. Here is some more about these promising areas of work:

ADA signage

A new purpose for cancer drug?
Researchers unveiled results from a trial testing whether cancer drug, imatinib (brand name Gleevec), has the potential to slow the progression of T1D in newly-diagnosed adults. The trial found that the drug did slow the progression of T1D and the loss of the body’s own insulin production. On average, the people who got the medicine used less insulin and had higher beta cell function. The study is scheduled to continue for an additional 12 months to determine how these responses hold up over time. Since 2014, JDRF has been funding a University of California San Francisco research team led by Dr. Stephen Gitelman to conduct this trial as a follow-up to the promising results found in a previous JDRF-funded study in mice.

JDRF-funded researcher Associate Professor John Wentworth leads the Australian arm of this study through Royal Melbourne Hospital.

For more on the study, check out this Q&A with Dr. Gitelman.

Help for a healthy heart
The REMOVAL trial, also JDRF-funded, revealed that the type 2 diabetes drug, metformin, has beneficial effects on cardiovascular and metabolic health in adults with longstanding T1D. These results are extremely relevant to the T1D community, as heart disease is the one of the most common causes of reduced life expectancy in people with T1D. The results showed reductions in weight, LDL cholesterol and thickening of one of the main arteries, in adults with T1D taking metformin. There were no long-term benefits on glucose control. There is now a stronger case to use metformin more widely as a long-term strategy to reduce heart disease risk in T1D. The REMOVAL trial, led by the University of Glasgow, is the largest clinical trial of metformin therapy in type 1 diabetes to date.

JDRF funded the five-year international trial, which studied people with T1D in the UK, US, Australia, Canada, Denmark and the Netherlands with risk factors for heart disease. Prof Alicia Jenkins, a T1DCRN researcher and Principal Investigator on the FAME-1 Eye Study was the Australian lead on this study. Results were also published in the prestigious journal, The Lancet.

Oral insulin as a preventative measure
The international Diabetes TrialNet Oral Insulin Prevention Trial is the largest and longest oral insulin prevention trial ever conducted. This study sought to answer whether treatment at early stages of disease can delay progression to clinical type 1 diabetes – when a person begins to show symptoms. They did not find significant evidence of benefit in three out of the four main groups tested. In one of the smaller subgroups, oral insulin was able to delay the progression of T1D by 31 months on average. This highlights that type 1 diabetes is influenced by many factors and develops differently in different people. Research into multiple prevention strategies is essential as one particular strategy may not work across the board. Two other TrialNet prevention studies currently underway are testing the drugs, Abatacept and Teplizumab, to see if they can delay or prevent disease progression prior to diagnosis.

TrialNet in Australia and New Zealand is led by Associate Professor John Wentworth in collaboration with Professor Peter Colman AM.

See the TrialNet website for more information. Eligible family members of people with T1D can get screened through the Pathway to Prevention study. 

These studies are among many JDRF-supported projects presented at ADA, as well as a panel presentation from JDRF-International’s Chief Mission Officer, Dr Aaron Kowalski, on artificial pancreas technologies and the future face of diabetes care, including JDRF’s investments in next-generation closed-loop technologies that would offer improvements such as a smaller size, the ability to be implanted, longer wear, more automation, additional inputs and adjunct therapies.

Many Australian experts featured at the conference, including JDRF Travel Grant recipient, Dr Ki Wook Kim, who presented as part of the ENDIA team, Associate Professor Anandwardhan Hardikar, a JDRF T1DCRN Career Development Award recipient who presented on the PREDICT T1D study, and the JDRF/NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence in WA group who presented on aspects of exercise and psychosocial factors affecting T1D management.

And a prestigious award…
Australian expert Professor Mark Cooper AO received an Edwin Bierman Award at the event, which recognises a leading scientist in the field of macrovascular complications and contributing factors in diabetes. Mark is no stranger to recognition, being named an Officer of the Order of Australia earlier this year, and becoming the first Australian ever to receive the Claude Bernard Award at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (2016). Professor Cooper leads the JDRF/NHMRC Centre for Research Excellence initiative, ‘New targets and therapies in diabetic complications’, and is involved in a number of JDRF/T1DCRN funded projects.


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