By: Dora Lenord
Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet, an international network of researchers exploring ways to prevent and delay the progression of type 1 diabetes, has reached an important milestone: screening 100,000 people to detect who among is at risk of developing type 1 diabetes. This is a major achievement because it has helped researchers better predict who will develop diabetes and when it will require treatment. Earlier diagnosis helps patients avoid a severe, life-threatening condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), TrialNet screenings are provided free of charge to relatives of people with type 1 diabetes- whose chances of developing the disease are 15 times greater than those with no family history. Participants whose results signal an increased risk can choose whether to take part in prevention studies exploring new ways to combat the disease.
TrialNet researchers are currently conducting two prevention studies for at-risk relatives of people with type 1 diabetes:
• The Anti-CD3 Prevention Study is testing whether an experimental drug called teplizumab can prevent or delay type 1 diabetes. In previous studies, teplizumab helped preserve insulin production in newly diagnosed individuals.
• The Oral Insulin Prevention Study is testing whether one daily insulin capsule (taken by mouth) can prevent or delay type 1 diabetes. Results of a previous NIH study indicated oral insulin might delay type 1 diabetes for up to 10 years in individuals with certain autoantibodies.
“Screening is the first step on the pathway to prevention and provides an important opportunity for intervention at an early stage,” says TrialNet Chair Jay Skyler, M.D.
Incidence of type 1 diabetes is rapidly increasing worldwide. The disease is also presenting at an earlier age, with the greatest increase in children under age five. Each year, in the U.S. alone, approximately 15,000 children and adolescents are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. While peak ages for diagnosis are between 11 and 14, type 1 diabetes can occur at any age. Unlike type 2 diabetes, which may be controlled and even prevented with diet and exercise, there’s currently no cure for type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition requiring lifelong insulin injections.
“TrialNet is committed to going the distance to screen relatives of people with type 1 diabetes until we find a way to prevent this disease,” says Skyler.
Nearly 200 TrialNet locations nationwide offer free screenings and prevention studies. Screening test kits are also available by mail. To learn more, visit www.DiabetesTrialNet.org or call 1-800-425-8361.