New treatment might put Type 2 diabetes in remission
A new study by Toronto researchers on an experimental way to treat type 2 diabetes shows it may cause temporary remission of the disease in up to 75 per cent of patients.
The experimental treatment involves having non-insulin-dependent, type 2 diabetics take four shots of carefully-dosed insulin per day for one month.
According to Dr. Bernard Zinman, the director of the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes and lead researcher of the study, by giving these diabetics concentrated levels of insulin early on in their disease, their pancreas, in effect, gets "a break."
"The diabetes, in essence, goes away because their own pancreas now can make enough insulin," he tells CTV News.
Patients develop diabetes when their pancreas can't produce enough insulin to lower blood sugar levels after meals. While medications can temporarily boost insulin production, many type 2 diabetics eventaully need to begin a lifetime of daily insulin shots. Over time, patients with the disease can go on to suffer from a range of complications including blindness, heart disease, kidney problems and nerve damage.
In Zinman's study, after the month on concentrated doses, patients then take a test medication called liraglutide to see if they can maintain the remission.
The period of remission may eventually wear off, Zinman says, and so he sees the possibility of a future "top-up" treatment, which would last another month.
While the remission period can vary in patients, the prospect of improving pancreatic function is an exciting development in diabetes research, said Dr. Ravi Retnakaran, co-researcher of the study.
"This is a very novel and exiting way of treating diabetes that could have important implications," said Retnakaran.
For some patients involved in the study, the treatment has had a major impact on their quality of life. Francoise Hebert was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in November 2010. Seven months ago she enrolled in the study, and while she found the four daily insulin doses challenging, her blood sugar levels are now normal.
She takes once-a-day injections of what is either a placebo or liraglutide that's meant to boost the body's insulin production. Whatever is in that needle, Hebert now happily tells people she "no longer has the disease," and is hoping she's delayed any progression of diabetes-related complications.
"It feels fabulous," she said with a laugh. "It feels absolutely wonderful."
In addition to having her diabetes go into remission, Hebert says she's also learned how to eat better and hopes to eventually be able to get her weight under control.
The research team at Mount Sinai Hospital is now testing to see if a once-waday injection of liraglutide can keep diabetes in check. Thay are looking for more study subjects and hope to have results in a year or two.
They also want more safety data on the medication, since some studies have linked liraglutide is to an increased risk of pancreatitis.
With a report from CTV's medical specialist Avis Favaro and producer Elizabeth St. Philip