Published on 12 April 2016

An immunotherapy treatment that targets the causes of type 1 diabetes is to be trialled in London.

Phase one clinical trials of the new immunotherapy treatment, called MultiPepT1De, are to be carried out at Guy’s Hospital in London.

The treatment is being developed to target the autoimmune attack that leads to the development of type 1 diabetes, which affects over 400,000 people in the UK.

Aleix Rowlandson is taking part in the new MultiPepT1De clinical trial

In type 1 diabetes the pancreas fails to produce insulin and insulin injections are required for life.

The cause of the condition is unknown but it is thought to be an auto-immune process. In effect, the body produces antibodies to the pancreas damaging it and preventing it producing insulin.

The new therapy will use fragments of proteins, known as peptides, in an effort to stop this process by ‘switching off’ the specific autoimmune attack, and researchers hope this could prevent further destruction of the pancreatic cells.

In laboratory testing, the MultiPepT1De treatment was reported to be more powerful than the first generation treatment trialled last year and is designed to benefit a higher proportion of people with type 1 diabetes than previous tests.

MultiPepT1De was developed with funding from the Wellcome Trust by researchers at King’s College London working in the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre (BRC) at Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College London.

MultiPepT1De is set to be trialled on 24 people with type 1 diabetes by autumn 2016 and the study team is hopeful of positive results that build upon their previous findings showing that the first generation of MultiPepT1De, called MonoPepT1De, is safe and well tolerated, with positive effects reported by people with type 1 diabetes who have been involved in the study.

Professor Mark Peakman, Principal Investigator at the Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), Guy’s Hospital, said: "We are really looking forward to seeing the results from this new trial. What we are doing is a big step forward in precision medicine, taking a set of patients with a particular disease and genetic background and giving them an immunotherapy designed in the laboratory specifically for them. Obviously we will need to wait until we have the full results of the trial before we know if it is successful but at this stage we are hopeful."

Dr Stephen Caddick, Director of Innovations at the Wellcome Trust, said: "Type 1 diabetes is a very serious condition that normally requires lifelong treatment with insulin therapy, but this promising new form of "immunotherapy" could be set to change that. By retraining the immune system to prevent it from attacking insulin-producing cells, it may be possible to slow progression of the disease or even stop it in its tracks. If this approach is proved successful in larger studies it has the potential to transform the lives of people with Type 1 diabetes."

MultiPepT1De is based on an area of study called peptide immunotherapy, which is currently being applied to a number of other diseases, including allergies and multiple sclerosis.

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, said: "This exciting new treatment has the potential to transform the lives of thousands of patients across the UK living with Type 1 diabetes. Thanks to our strong economy we invest over £1 billion every year in health research, helping us to lead the world in medical innovation and give NHS patients the latest cutting-edge treatments."

Among those taking part in the new MultiPepT1De clinical trial is Aleix Rowlandson, 18, who was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes last September.

Alex, a student from Trawden, Lancashire, said: "When I was first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes I didn’t know much about it or what could be done to treat it. My family and I did some research and when I found out about the clinical trial I was delighted. Having spoken to the clinicians leading the trial and completed tests to check that I was a suitable candidate, I am now looking forward to starting treatment and seeing the results.

"I have already learnt a lot more about diabetes and I am very excited to be part of this ground-breaking trial. I hope that in some way I can help others who suffer from the condition."

Natalie Worrall

Natalie Worrall, 20, an aspiring policewoman from Herne Bay in Kent, who developed type 1 diabetes aged 19 is also taking part in the trial. She said: "Since being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in late 2014, it has become a big part of my life trying to deal with it and live a normal life. Although my symptoms are mainly controllable, I can get very thirsty when my blood sugar level is high and can experience multiple lows in the night that cause me to wake up."

"When I read the information about this new trial, it was immediately evident to me that I would benefit from being part of it. I am extremely proud to be taking part in it and fighting back against a disease that affects so many people around the world."

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