Scientists discover that cancer drugs might help restore insulin production in patients with diabetes

Scientists have discovered a method that may eliminate the need for regular insulin injections for people with diabetes.

In 2021, 38.4 million Americans (11.6 percent of the population) were projected to have diabetes – 29.7 million were diagnosed while 8.7 million were undiagnosed. At least two million Americans have Type 1 diabetes, including an estimated 304,000 children and adolescents.

The research team, which was spearheaded by Sam El-Osta of Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, identified two drugs previously approved by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States for rare cancers that can rapidly restore insulin production in cells damaged by diabetes.

For Type 1 diabetes, which represents about 10 percent of all diabetes cases in Australia, the immune system destroys pancreatic cells. Because of this, patients require daily insulin injections to manage their condition.

Details of the study, which was conducted by scientists from Melbourne’s Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, were published in the journal Nature on Jan. 1. (Related: Study: Consistent intermittent fasting can cause remission in over 50% of patients with Type 2 diabetes.)

Researchers reported that when stimulated by small molecule inhibitors in the cancer medications, the cells were found to respond to glucose and produce insulin within 48 hours. The researchers are hopeful that this therapy could also benefit the 30 percent of Australians living with Type 2 diabetes who may eventually need insulin injections.

El-Osta said this regenerative approach could be an important advance toward clinical development. He added that before the study, “the regenerative process has been incidental, and lacking confirmation.”

How diabetes affects the body

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