Gleevec (imatinib) and Sutent (sunitinib) appear to impact the ability of mice to develop Type I diabetes according to recent research publ;ished in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The drugs were found to put type 1 diabetes into remission in 80 percent of the test mice and work permanently in 80 percent of those that go into remission.
The interesting thing is that these two cancer drugs largely inhibit different tyrosine kinases except for KIT and PDGFR, so what is the possible mechanism of action? Gleevec inhibits BCR-ABL, PDGFR and C-KIT. Sutent is a multi kinase inhibitor, but does not affect BCR-ABL. Another inhibitor of KIT only marginally affected the mice, suggesting that PDGFR was the principal mechanism in the non-obese diabetic mice give that:
"… a soluble form of platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR), PDGFRβIg, rapidly reversed diabetes."
The most common form of diabetes is Type II, often associated with obesity, but few effective options exist for Type I diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease caused by the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
These promising results mean that the scientists will continue to study the effects of PDGFR in type 1 diabetes and have now applied for funding to perform a safety and efficacy clinical trial in patients.