A common myth about type 1 diabetes is that it skips generations. Eleven-year-old Adam Holcomb’s family learned the hard way that this is not true. Three generations of the family now have type 1 diabetes. Adam’s grandfather was diagnosed at age 12, his father, Reid, at age 29, and his older brother, Isaiah, at age 9. When Isaiah was diagnosed, his mother, Jenifer, began investigating if there was a way to keep Adam and his little sister, Rosie, from developing diabetes.
She learned that Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet was testing relatives of people with type 1 diabetes to determine if they are at increased risk. Benaroya Research Institute is the Type 1 Diabetes TrialNet Northwest Clinical Center.
TrialNet, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, is a network of 18 clinical centers that conducts prevention and intervention studies for type 1 diabetes.
When asked if it was a hard decision to have Adam and Rosie tested (knowing that there was no approved treatment to prevent diabetes), Jenifer replied, “It was an easy one for us. We wanted to try to get them into a prevention study if they were at risk.” TrialNet testing showed that Rosie was not at increased risk, but Adam did show autoantibody risk markers. Relatives with two or more antibodies will eventually develop diabetes. About 1 out of 3 will develop type 1 diabetes within five years.
Although Adam was scared to learn that he is at risk for type 1 diabetes, he was willing to try a research study that would “help people not have diabetes, and maybe keep me from having diabetes.”
Adam entered a prevention study testing abatacept. The drug was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2005. It is now approved for use in people ages 6 and older who have rheumatoid arthritis or polyarticular juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which are also autoimmune diseases. TrialNet tested abatacept in people who had recently been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The people who received abatacept kept producing insulin longer than people who did not get abatacept. The hope is that the treatment will be even more effective in people who have not yet been diagnosed with diabetes.
Adam will receive infusions of either the medication or placebo every month for a year. Meanwhile, he enjoys hockey, skiing and playing his guitar.
What is Jenifer’s advice to other parents? “It is better to know if your child is at an increased risk so parents can be prepared, be vigilant for symptoms, and know what to expect. I would highly recommend checking into the prevention studies.”
To learn more about risk testing and prevention trials, please call 800-888-4187 or visit trialnet.org.
Therapeutic Strategy For Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks and destroys the beta cells in the pancreas that make insulin. The destruction of the beta cells may continue for months or years prior to the clinical diagnosis of diabetes, giving researchers an opportunity to test ways to delay or prevent type 1 diabetes. For people who already have the disease, scientists look for therapeutic interventions to reduce complications and progression of type 1 diabetes.
Originally Published in BRING IT ON Newsletter - Summer 2014
June 8, 2014
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