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Should Cancer Drugs Be Used to Treat Diabetics?

December 11, 2008 | 18,869 views

type 1 diabetesTwo common cancer drugs have been shown to both prevent and reverse type 1 diabetes in a mouse model of the disease. The drugs are imatinib (marketed as Gleevec) and sunitinib (marketed as Sutent). Both 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 drugs' benefit appears to derive from the ability to block receptors of an enzyme tyrosine kinase not known to be implicated in diabetes, an enzyme known as platelet-derived growth factor receptor, or PDGFR. This kinase regulates cell growth and division, and also plays a key role in inflammation in a variety of settings.
 

Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that occurs because your immune system mistakenly destroys insulin-secreting cells in your pancreas. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes have little or no insulin, and must monitor their blood sugar levels closely, and typically take insulin injections daily.

Interestingly some of the newest research shows that vitamin D deficiency may be the primary cause of type 1 diabetes. So it is VITAL that all pregnant women and children be optimized for vitamin D if they are to avoid this devastating disease.

Unfortunately, once the damage is done and the pancreatic islet cells are destroyed, normalizing vitamin D levels will NOT reverse type 1 diabetes. However, improving vitamin D levels seems to be VERY useful for controlling type 2 diabetes, which is the far more common type in which the pancreatic cells still function and produce insulin.

Type 1 Diabetes

About 5 percent to 10 percent of Americans who have diabetes have the type 1 variety, and would surely welcome a potential “cure” from this currently incurable illness -- but are any drugs ever going to do this?

Unfortunately, if you opt to treat type 1 diabetes with these cancer drugs, you could be simply trading one problem for another …

• Gleevec, which is used to treat leukemia, kills heart muscle cells, which may cause fatal congestive heart failure. Liver problems, abnormal bleeding, severe fluid retention, skin blistering, and muscle and bone pain have also been reported.

• Sutent, which is used to treat advanced kidney cancer and a cancer of the digestive system, may cause heart problems, increased blood pressure or a hole in your stomach or bowel wall.

So in this case the “cure” may end up being worse than the disease itself.

What Safer Options are there for Type 1 Diabetics?

Unlike type 2 diabetes, which is virtually 100 percent curable with natural methods frequently described on my site, type 1 diabetes is harder to address.

There have been some advances made in recent years that could help, however.

One discovery, which shocked even the researchers who made it, could eventually lead to a near-cure of diabetes.

Researchers at a Toronto hospital injected diabetic mice with capsaicin, the active ingredient in chili peppers, which counteracted the effect of malfunctioning pain neurons in the pancreas. The mice became healthy practically overnight.

This goes against the conventional wisdom that type 1 diabetes is caused solely by your body's immune system attacking your pancreas. Apparently, the nerves also secrete neuropeptides that are crucial to the proper functioning of the pancreas. The researchers are still working to find out if the results hold true in humans.

The Vitamin D Connection

As I mentioned earlier, prevention of diabetes with optimal vitamin D levels is likely one of the most powerful preventives yet known to date.

Many people do not realize that there is a strong association between how far away from the equator you are and the likelihood of acquiring type 1 diabetes. In other words, the more sun you get the higher your levels of vitamin D and the lower your risk of insulin-dependent diabetes. This is so well documented that many Nordic countries now regularly supplement with high levels of vitamin D to prevent diabetes.

Typical adult doses of vitamin D should be about 4,000 units per day. You can save the cost of supplements, risk of overdosing and cost of testing by exposing large amounts of your skin to sunlight in the spring, summer and fall. You can achieve levels of about 10,000 units per day this way. During the winter, however, supplementing with a high-quality vitamin D, and monitoring your levels, makes sense.

You can find out everything you need to know about vitamin D, from optimal levels to where to have your blood test done, in this important article on the topic.

Can Type 1 Diabetes be Prevented?

Type 1 diabetes is typically diagnosed in children and adolescents, so prevention needs to start early on. One of the most promising preventative tactics appears to be simply exposing your child to some normal dirt and germs, and avoiding raising them in an overly sterile environment.

This information came out earlier this year when researchers found that mice exposed to common stomach bacteria are protected against the development of type 1 diabetes.

The findings support the "hygiene hypothesis" -- the theory that a lack of exposure to parasites, bacteria and viruses in the developed world may lead to increased risk of diseases like allergies, asthma, and other disorders of the immune system.

The results also suggest that exposure to some forms of bacteria might actually help prevent onset of type 1 diabetes.

It is also essential that babies receive enough vitamin D after they’re born. Studies have shown that babies who received at least 2,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily were nearly 80 percent less likely to develop type 1 diabetes over the next three decades compared to infants who had lower intakes of the vitamin.

And again, women should also make sure that their vitamin D levels are in the optimal range while they are pregnant.

For Those Who Have Type 1 Diabetes …

I remain very confident that stem cell treatments and artificial pancreas with feedback loops from implanted sensors will provide a very good solution for you in the near future. In the meantime you should eat virtually perfectly and follow the advice in Take Control of Your Health as closely as possible.

The idea is to preserve as much function as possible until an effective solution is available in the next five to 20 years.

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