The research team showed that two common cancer drugs - Imatinib and Sunitnib, sold as Gleevec and Sutent, respectively could effectively block and reverse type 1 diabetes in mice.
"The findings suggest that kinase inhibitors - successfully used in cancer - may provide an important new therapeutic approach for treatment of new onset type 1 diabetes and potentially other autoimmune disorders," said Teodora Staeva, Ph.D., JDRF Director of Immunology.
These drugs are used to treat cancer by blocking tyrosine kinases, an enzyme that modifies cells' signalling proteins through a simple biochemical change.
Kinases trigger cell growth, and it is widely believed that tyrosine kinases are a contributing factor to autoimmune diseases and cancer.
The researchers treated non-diabetic mice prone to developing diabetes with imatinib or sunitinib,
The findings revealed that the drugs prevented the onset of diabetes past the seven-week treatment.
The mice that had already developed diabetes were treated with the drugs and results concluded that after two months of treatment, 80 percent no longer had diabetes.
The study is published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.