Cancer drug neratinib offers hope for type 1 diabetes treatment

A drug used to treat breast cancer, neratinib, has the potential to halt the immune system from destroying beta cells in type 1 diabetes, according to German researchers.

Neratinib was able to guard the beta cells, which produce insulin in the pancreas, from attack. The JDRF-funded study showed that the treatment enabled the beta cells to continue to produce insulin.

When someone with type 1 diabetes is diagnosed with the condition, typically they have 10 to 20% of beta cells remaining. The researchers hope that early intervention could help to preserve the number of beta cells following diagnosis.

If the drug is effective at preserving the number of beta cells, it could make it easier for people with type 1 diabetes to control their blood glucose levels, and reduce the amount of insulin they may need to take by injection or insulin pump.

The researchers from the University of Bremen explored whether the drug could stop the process behind the immune system attack in type 1 diabetes. In experiments, they tested whether neratinib on cells, similar to beta cells grown in a laboratory. They then explored whether neratinib could protect human beta cells. Additionally, they tested the drug in mice which had a condition similar to type 1 diabetes.

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