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Imatinib Drug To Treat Cancer and Slow Diabetes Onset


Imatinib is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor that treats chronic leukemia and other cancers by suppressing the immune system. Now, research shows that Imatinib can also be a preservative for the beta-cell function of people with Type 1 diabetes.

New Research

This drug’s introduction to the American Diabetes Association and the 2017 Scientific Sessions is quite impressive. Research findings have been conducted by University of California’s Stephen Gitelman, MD with funding from JDRF.  During his researching, Gitelman tried the drug, supplied from Novartis, on 67 adults. The study participants were between the ages of 18- 45 years old with the onset of Type 1 diabetes.



In Gitelman’s findings, it was determined that Imatinib is a “promising therapy.”  For the people in the case study who were treated with Imatinib for 6 months, there was improved beta-cell function.  The participants that took 12 full months of Imatinib experienced reduced exogenous insulin needs. The people in the study began producing more insulin innately and became less dependent on the supplemental insulin injections they had been taking prior to the study. Insulin sensitivity also increased and there was an overall better response to insulin.

For some of the patients, there were side effects. These included gastrointestinal problems like nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. As with many prescribed medications, there is a risk of side effects. In most participants, side effects cleared up after they had been taking the medication for a period of time.

This new study is preliminary and encouraging for those with Type 1 diabetes. The drug Imatinib will help to preserve the function of beta cells for the better overall health of those with diabetes.

Along with studies on the 67 human patients, drug testing studies on mice also show new discoveries. The results show that Imatinib prevented diabetes for those at risk of developing the illness as well as reversing diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice.  Dr. Gitelman stated, “If you treat for 10 weeks and then withdraw treatment, at least half the mice remain in remission.”

Moving Forward

Next, Dr. Gitelman would like to test the approach of Imatinib on children. He says this will give more insight as to how the drug works with “more aggressive loss of beta-cell function following diagnosis.” Then, the drug will pair with a selected T-cell therapy option. That will result in a “synergistic effect that is significantly greater than the results seen to date with single drugs.”


At Lucas Research, you can volunteer for clinical studies.  Contact us today.

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