Immunotherapy has revolutionized the treatment of cancer and survival, but it is associated with a high cost and, for some patients, this is a lifetime of diabetes and insulin dependence.
Why the game-changing treatment causes this very side effect remains a mystery.
So far, only about one percent of immunotherapy patients appear to develop diabetes, but as the relatively new treatment occurs more frequently, medication-related diabetes can also occur.
Although it is manageable with vigilantly controlled glucose levels and insulin injections, diabetes can be life-threatening, not to mention the quality of life for patients.
Now scientists, including the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, are struggling to identify how this phenomenon occurs and why it occurs in some patients, but not in others.
Cancer is beat now that we have immunotherapy, but the treatment can cause diabetes. Now Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy is out to prove why (file)
Immunotherapy provides a powerful boost to the immune system by eliminating naturally occurring proteins that switch off cancer-forming immune cells and allow tumor cells to fully attack and attack.
But the immune system is a complex and delicately balanced set of processes, cells and organs.
Perhaps not surprisingly, tinkering with part of it can have far-reaching consequences for other parts.
Since the adoption of the first modern immunotherapy in 1997, doctors have reported a growing number of immune-related adverse reactions to treatment, including diabetes and even death.
Researchers believe that these autoimmune problems arise because the treatment confuses the immune system, making it believe that its useful, infection-fighting cells are foreign bodies and attack them.
An autoimmune disease, independent of immune therapy, develops when the immune system begins to attack the beta cells that produce insulin and allows the body to properly break down glucose and convert it into energy.
So while immuno-oncologists want to revive the immune system to fight someone's own cells – crazy – cancer – by turning off T-cell blockers, they don't want it to touch B cells.
Patients with life-threatening diabetes continue their immunotherapy treatments less frequently, so solving the diabetes problem also has to do with whether the treatment can do the most good for most people.
For whatever reason, those who do not have a previous disease but develop diabetes related to immunotherapy appear to develop forms of the condition that cause dramatic fluctuations from dangerously high glucose levels to horrifically low levels.
These patients will never again produce their own healthy insulin, at least not enough to keep them healthy.
To overcome this, patients must consistently use insulin injections for the rest of their lives.
Aside from the fact that immunotherapy appears to enable the immune system to turn against itself, scientists do not know what genetic, environmental, or other factors are that disrupt treatment.
Supported by Sean Parker, the entrepreneur of Napster and fame Facebook and shame, a group of specialists is investing $ 10 million in trying to find out.
They plan to continue for three years in assessing patients and pathways along which diabetes develops.
& # 39; The clinical success of immune control subjects such as ipilimumab, nivolumab and pembrolizumab has changed the face of cancer therapy, prolonging the lives of patients who previously had few choices, & # 39; Institute.
& # 39; Rarely, these patients develop insulin-dependent diabetes and nobody really understands how or why. & # 39;
He and his staff hope that their findings will not only help cancer patients, but also anyone with type 1 diabetes.
& # 39; By investing in this research, we can better understand in real time how type 1 diabetes develops and possibly disable the immune system, so disease progression never happens & # 39 ;, says Dr. Aaron Kowalks, president and CEO of JDRF.
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