Arthritis Drug Could Help Diabetics Too
When the body attacks itself the consequences can be debilitating. Think arthritis.
Now researchers in Seattle (at BRI) are testing whether a blockbuster arthritis drug can take on an even more dangerous disease: diabetes, one of the world’s biggest killers.
Roche’s Actemra generates $1.2bn a year by calming the overzealous defence mechanisms of patients with rheumatoid arthritis. A clinical trial in the US, EXTEND, aims to see whether the antibody-based therapy can help people with type 1 diabetes stop their body from attacking insulin-making cells.
"We frequently look and see what drugs have been used in other autoimmune diseases because they have shared mechanisms," says Carla Greenbaum, the study’s principal investigator and director of the diabetes programme at the Benaroya Research Institute in Seattle. "A lot of these drugs that have been on the shelf and have been used, or not used, for various things are definitely going to be repurposed."
Autoimmune disorders, a broad disease category that includes both type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis, are triggered by a glitch in the immune system. The body’s defences turn against joint tissue in arthritis, while in diabetes they attack the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. Actemra, whose generic name is tocilizumab, works by blocking the protein interleukin-6 involved in inflammation and the stimulation of immune cells. "We’re trying to re-educate the immune system," Greenbaum says.