December 21, 2022 - Podcast

Episode 333 — A new drug to delay Type 1 diabetes

On November 17, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved teplizumab, a new immunotherapy drug that delays the onset of Type 1 diabetes in at-risk individuals by an average of almost three years. 

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the body's immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Without enough insulin to help cells process blood glucose as energy, dangerous levels of glucose build up in the bloodstream.  

Teplizumab is an immunotherapy drug designed to interfere with the body's immune destruction of its own beta cells. 

Indiana University School of Medicine researchers helped conduct clinical trials and led data collection and analysis of the drug.  

IU researcher Emily K. Sims, an associate professor of pediatrics, says the team is excited about teplizumab's approval because researchers have been trying to delay the onset of Type 1 diabetes since the early nineties, and this is the first drug that’s proven successful. 

The IU School of Medicine was one of 28 sites that participated in the original teplizumab study conducted by TrialNet, the largest clinical trial network ever assembled to discover ways to delay and prevent Type 1 diabetes.  

Sims was a key researcher on a TrialNet analysis providing extended follow-up with participants from the original Teplizumab Prevention Study concluded in 2019. The newest findings show high-risk individuals treated with teplizumab experienced a median delay of diagnosis by 2.7 years versus the placebo group. 

Sims says a delay of nearly three years in the onset of the disease is a big deal because even if someone with Type 1 diabetes has the newest technology to deliver insulin, there's still a huge financial and psychological burden that goes along with diagnosis and daily management of the disease. 

In addition to the pronounced delay of disease, those treated with teplizumab showed improved rates of insulin production, despite exhibiting insulin loss over time prior to treatment. Participants receiving a placebo continued to show a decline in insulin production consistent with disease advancement. 

Sims says the idea of disease prevention and disease modifying therapy is exciting because it might really change the way we treat people with Type 1 diabetes and those at high risk for developing the disease. She says this is just the beginning.