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Find out the latest news about JDRF's research and fundraising events.

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Promising new drug for diabetic retinopathy hits clinical trials

A completely new treatment for diabetic retinopathy has started being tested in people for the first time. The first-in-man trials of experimental drug KVD001 began this month, focussing on assessing the safety and tolerability of the drug in treating diabetic macular oedema (a particular type of retinopathy).

The trials are being conducted at the world renowned Beetham Eye Institute (part of the Joslin Diabetes Centre at Harvard Medical School in Boston) and recruitment will gradually roll out through five centres in the US.

The company behind the drug, KalVista, is a small biotechnology company based near Southampton. JDRF has been working with KalVista on the drug for a number of years, and indeed JDRF supported the academic research that identified the biological pathway the drug is designed to target.

The only drug currently licensed specifically for treating diabetic macular oedema, is ranizumab (brand name Lucentis). This drug is designed to target a molecule called vascular endothelial growth factor and so prevent the disordered growth of blood vessels that contributes to vision loss. While treatment with Lucentis has been able to help many people with diabetic macular oedema, it doesn’t work for everyone. KVD001 is a type of molecule called a plasma kallikrein inhibitor, and targets a different biological pathway to Lucentis – so KalVista’s new drug may be able to help those for whom Lucentis does not work.

Rachel Connor, Head of Research Communication at JDRF in the UK said: ‘As complications of living with type 1 go, vision loss is one of the most feared. JDRF’s research strategy prioritises work to understand diabetic retinopathy and devise new ways to treat and prevent it for exactly this reason. So we’re excited to see KVD001, a drug that we have helped Kalvista to develop, make it to the first phase of clinical testing. There is of course still a long way to go, but if this treatment works it will provide a new option for people who develop diabetic macular oedema.'

Read more about JDRF’s work to help treat type 1 diabetes and its complications and find out how you can help to support research projects like this.


Low-dose antibiotic could help slow diabetic retinopathy

JDRF funded researchers have found that doxycycline, a type of antibiotic, may slow down or delay the course of diabetic retinopathy.

Diabetic retinopathy is a potential complication of type 1 and type 2 diabetes that involves damage to the tiny blood vessels in the retina, at the back of the eye. In the worst cases this can cause the body to grow new blood vessels into the retina; this is called proliferative diabetic retinopathy, and can end in vision loss or blindness.

The best way to prevent diabetic retinopathy is to maintain good blood glucose levels and to have routine medical check-ups with the ophthalmologist. In the case of proliferative diabetic retinopathy, the abnormal blood vessels can be treated with a laser that shrinks the blood vessels and reduces the risk of blindness by 90 per cent. However vision loss cannot be restored once it has been lost, which is why it is important to catch diabetic retinopathy early.

In this clinical trial the researchers, from Penn State College in Pennsylvania, USA, recruited 30 patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and at least one eye affected by retinopathy. Half of them received a daily dose of doxycycline, while the other half were given a placebo, and all 30 were followed up for two years.

At the end of the trial, the participants’ vision was assessed using a frequency doubling perimeter device, which measures retinal function by analysing the sensitivity of certain nerve cells in the eye.

The researchers found that half of the patients who were given doxycycline significantly improved the sensitivity of their retina, tested with the frequency doubling perimeter.

This finding, published in the journal JAMA Ophthalmology, could lead to a new treatment for one of the most common long-term eye-related complications of diabetes. A lot of research still needs to be done in this field, but the results are promising.

JDRF is funding several projects researching ways to better treat diabetic retinopathy. In the UK, we are part-funding work carried out by a company called KalVista in Southampton to develop a new drug to treat a type of retinopathy called diabetic macular oedema.

“This work is still in its early stages, but we look forward to seeing the results of continued exploration. A successful treatment for diabetic retinopathy would mean that people with diabetes would no longer need to be afraid of blindness or vision loss,” said Helen Albert, acting Head of Research Communication at JDRF.


Have your say in eye disease research

Eye charity, Fight for Sight, is running a survey to find out what questions people with eye disease would like researchers to answer.  

The survey aims to understand how people with eye disease, their carers and eye health care professionals prioritise unanswered questions about the prevention detection and treatment of sight loss and eye conditions.

The results of the survey will be used to compile a list of questions that are most important to people with eye disease and their carers and to encourage researchers to investigate these issues. Research funders can also use this list of questions to identify applications that are hoping to answer the questions that have been prioritised. More details and to take the survey


New vision for type 1 diabetes

JDRF has joined forces with UK biotech company KalVista to bring hope to type 1 diabetes patients at risk of vision complications.

This new research collaboration will help KalVista begin first in human trials with a new drug they have developed to treat diabetic retinopathy.

KalVista are working on a therapy that may improve or delay the symptoms of diabetic eye disease. The drug may help to protect the blood vessels in the eye that are often damaged in diabetic eye disease and can lead to vision loss. They hope that protecting these blood vessels may prevent or slow down vision problems. The new drug can be delivered straight to the eye and this study aims to tests its safety in humans.

Diabetic eye disease or diabetic retinopathy is the most common and most serious eye related complication in patients with type 1 diabetes. It causes swelling of part of the eye and destroys small blood vessels leading to loss of vision. A treatment to prevent or slow its progression would be a major benefit to patients.

The partnership with KalVista is particularly important as it allows this novel therapy, move from basic research – which was also supported by JDRF – towards clinical testing.

Head of research communication at JDRF Rachel Connor said ‘we are very excited about this partnership with KalVista and believe that this approach could make a difference to thousands of people affected by type 1 diabetes at risk of diabetic retinopathy’.


NICE dismiss joint appeal for Lucentis

Last week we were disappointed to learn that NICE dismissed our joint appeal encouraging them to reconsider their decision not to recommend Lucentis for the treatment of Diabetic Macular Oedema through the NHS. Working together with Diabetes UK, the Macular Disease Society (MDS) and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) we have been campaigning for the potentially sight-saving drug to be made available for people with diabetic macular oedema (DMO) after NICE initially turned down an appeal for it to be used on the NHS.

At least 50,000 people in the UK are affected by DMO.Traditionally, laser treatment has been the standard treatment for the condition on the NHS, yet this only stops vision from deteriorating further. Lucentis, given in the form of an injection in the eye, however, is the first licensed treatment to improve vision in people with sight loss due to DMO.

Together with the other three charities, we are now urging the manufacturer of Lucentis, Novartis, to rapidly develop a Patient Access Scheme with the Department of Health and NICE in order to reduce the cost of this treatment to the NHS and ensure the maximum number of people with DMO can benefit from the treatment without delay.


Are we beating diabetic retinopathy?

The incidence of one of the most common complications of type 1 diabetes appears to be in decline, according to researchers in Finland.

Led by Dr Per-Henrik Groop from Helsinki University Central Hospital, the team studied the rate of severe retinopathy in people with type 1 diabetes diagnosed between 1939 and 2005. They grouped 3,781 patients from Finland according to the year they were diagnosed: before 1975, 1975-1979, 1980-1984 and 1985 and after. Severe retinopathy was assessed according to how many laser treatments patients had received.

The results, published in the September issue of Diabetes Care, reveal a decreasing incidence of severe diabetic retinopathy after 20-30 years of type 1 diabetes. People born in the 1980s were almost 50 per cent less likely to have had severe retinopathy after 20 years than people born in the 1970s or earlier.

Much of this improvement can be attributed to advances in the detection and treatment of retinopathy. The earliest groups may also have had much poorer glucose control earlier in their lives.

JDRF is committed to beating the complications of type 1 diabetes, including diabetic retinopathy. We want to make sure that people with type 1 diabetes stay as healthy as possible while we search for the cure. Through research funded by JDRF, we are now better able to diagnose, treat and prevent the complications of type 1 diabetes. 

Read more about JDRF complications research. 


Charities work together to appeal NICE’s decision and save sight

Together with four other UK charities, JDRF has today launched an appeal against a NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) decision not to recommend the drug Lucentis for treatment of Diabetic Macular Oedema (DMO) on the NHS. 

Current research indicates that ranibizumab (marketed as Lucentis) is highly effective in treating DMO and, significantly, that it meets an unmet need for patients who do not respond well to the current standard laser treatment.

JDRF supported the early development of Lucentis through our Innovative Grant programme. Further collaboration with Genentech, a biotech company based in San Francisco, and Johns Hopkins Medical School, enabled clinical research to help reveal the full therapeutic benefit of the drug for people with type 1 diabetes.

JDRF is working together with Diabetes UK, Macular Disease Society and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to put together an appeal to encourage NICE, the Department of Health and the drug manufacturer to ensure the drug is available to patients with Diabetic Macular Oedema on the NHS.

The charities are also urging the drug manufacturer, the Department of Health and NICE to reconsider the option of a Patient Access Scheme so that a maximum number of patients can benefit from this new sight saving treatment.

The drug offers a real step change from the currently available laser treatment. It prevents further sight loss and in many cases even improves vision. We understand that NICE must consider the cost effectiveness of any new drug. But the impact of blindness is such that NICE, the Department of Health and the drug manufacturer must work together to find a solution that prevents people losing their sight when a licensed and effective treatment is available.

Join in with the campaign
Why not join us in making a noise about NICE’s decision and how it will impact you? We need help from all people affected by type 1 diabetes and Diabetic Macular Odeoma to spread the word about out appeal in a bid to get NICE to reconsider their decision.

You can show your support by following the conversations on Twitter @JDRFUK today and tweeting your comments and using the hashtag #lucentis.

If you don’t use Twitter, become our friend by searching for JDRF UK on Facebook and join the conversation that way.


NICE decide Lucentis is not an effective use of NHS resources

A new treatment for visual impairment caused by diabetic macular oedema (DMO) has this week been added to the list of medicines that are not considered an ‘effective use of NHS resources’. NICE has concluded that it does not recommend Lucentis® (ranibizumab) for use within the NHS in England and Wales for the treatment of visual impairment due to Diabetic Macular Oedema (DMO).

JDRF believes it is vital that patients with diabetic macular oedema receive safe and effective treatments for their condition. This is why we supported the early development of Lucentis through our Innovative Grant programme. Further collaboration with Genentech, a biotech company based in San Francisco, and Johns Hopkins Medical School, enabled clinical research to help reveal the full therapeutic benefit of the drug for people with type 1 diabetes.

DMO is caused by swelling in the centre of the retina – the light-sensitive area at the back of the eye that provides detailed vision. The swelling results from damage to small blood vessels caused by years of elevated blood sugar levels, which –even with the best possible treatment – are hard to avoid entirely when living with type 1 diabetes.

The standard treatment for DMO has been the same for the last 25 years – laser treatment to destroy areas of abnormal blood vessel growth at the back of the eye. However this treatment does not improve vision, it only slows the progression of the condition.

Therefore the decision by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to not recommend the drug ranibizumab (marketed as Lucentis) for use within the NHS to treat DMO is disappointing. Current research indicates that ranibizumab is highly effective in treating DMO and, significantly, that it meets an unmet need for patients who do not respond well to the current standard laser treatment.

Lucentis has been approved in the USA for the treatment of DMO, and is also approved in Europe for treating another eye condition, wet age-related macular degeneration. The fact that ranibizumab has not been NICE approved for the treatment of visual impairment caused by diabetic macular oedema means that clinicians may be forced to turn to unlicensed and therefore untested alternatives, putting patients’ sight at risk. 

If left untreated, diabetic macular oedema can lead to vision loss. The condition affects approximately 28% of people who have had diabetes for at least 20 years. The standard treatment of this condition has been the same for the last 25 years – laser treatment to destroy areas of abnormal blood vessel growth at the back of the eye. However, despite reducing the progression of the condition, this treatment does not improve vision.

JDRF campaigns to raise awareness of type 1 diabetes, informing key decision makers about the issues people living with the condition face. If you haven't already, get involved with JDRF's 1 Campaign. Together we can lobby the Government to invest more money in medical research and to improve access to treatments. 


London conference hosts diabetes industry and experts

Diabetes industry leaders gathered in London last week for the 2nd Annual Diabetes and Diabetic Retinopathy Conference.

The conference was organised by Visiongain in recognition of the dramatically rising incidence of type 1 and type 2 diabetes around the world. The programme aimed to bring together industry experts to discuss every aspect of drug development for both forms of diabetes, from the latest clinical developments through to dealing with regulatory issues.

JDRF plays a world-leading role in setting the agenda for type 1 diabetes research. This was reflected by the invitation of JDRF Director of Complications Barbara Araneo to chair the opening day of the conference. She gave a presentation about emerging treatments for diabetic eye disease and the challenges facing researchers and industry for prevention and treatment. Her presentation explained the strategies that JDRF is using to develop new treatments for retinopathy.  

Other highlights from the first day of the conference included Riccardo Perfetti from Sanofi-Aventis who presented his future vision for insulin development, emphasising the need for patient-centric innovation.

Day two of the conference took a closer look at retinopathy and featured experts from UCL, Moorfields Eye Hospital and Kings College London alongside representatives from AstraZeneca and pSivida. Professor of Clinical Ophthamology Sue Lightman from UCL and Moorfields took an indepth look at anti-VEGF therapies. These include the recently approved Lucentis, a drug that received early support from a JDRF grant. 


Why do some people with type 1 never have complications?

Everyone knows we should value the knowledge and experience of the older generation. Now JDRF-funded researchers are acting on this advice, and turning to people who have had type 1 diabetes for more than 50 years to gain new insights into how the condition progresses.

The results of this study, led by researchers at the Joslin Diabetes Center in the USA, have been published in the journal Diabetes Care. By looking at people who have spent fifty or more years living with type 1, the team aimed to shed light on factors that provide a protective effect against the complications of type 1.

Using medical records, the 351 participants were assessed for retinopathy, nephropathy, neuropathy and cardiovascular disease in relation to diabetes measures like HbA1c levels. A high proportion of the group were shown to be completely free from these complications, independent of their blood glucose control over the previous 15 years. This suggests they have inbuilt protection mechanisms that could be useful targets for therapies to benefit the general population.

Lead researcher, Professor George King, said: ‘If we can identify what constitutes this protective mechanism, we have the potential to induce such protections in others living with diabetes. That's huge.’

Read the full article here