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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Dec 2;105(48):18895-900. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0810246105. Epub 2008 Nov 17.

Tyrosine kinase inhibitors reverse type 1 diabetes in nonobese diabetic mice.

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Diabetes Center and the Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143, USA.


The recent development of small-molecule tyrosine kinase (TK) inhibitors offers increasing opportunities for the treatment of autoimmune diseases. In this study, we investigated the potential of this new class of drugs to treat and cure type 1 diabetes (T1D) in the NOD mouse. Treatment of prediabetic and new onset diabetic mice with imatinib (Gleevec) prevented and reversed T1D. Similar results were observed with sunitinib (Sutent), an additional approved multikinase inhibitor, suggesting that the primary target of imatinib, c-Abl, was not essential in blocking disease in this model. Additional studies with another TK inhibitor, PLX647 (targeting c-Kit and c-Fms) or an anti-c-Kit mAb showed only marginal efficacy whereas a soluble form of platelet-derived growth factor receptor (PDGFR), PDGFRbetaIg, rapidly reversed diabetes. These findings strongly suggest that inhibition of PDGFR is critical to reverse diabetes and highlight a crucial role of inflammation in the development of T1D. These conclusions were supported by the finding that the adaptive immune system was not significantly affected by imatinib treatment. Finally, and most significantly, imatinib treatment led to durable remission after discontinuation of therapy at 10 weeks in a majority of mice. Thus, long-term efficacy and tolerance is likely to depend on inhibiting a combination of tyrosine kinases supporting the use of selective kinase inhibitors as a new, potentially very attractive approach for the treatment of T1D.

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