Vancouver doctor leads groundbreaking diabetes research

300,000 Canadians are living with type 1 diabetes (T1D). There is no known cause or cure, and the number of new cases is increasing by approximately 5% every year in Canada, with an annual health care cost of over $16 billion*.

Prescription drug could eliminate insulin dependence in people with type 1 diabetes

-Newly diagnosed patients sought for clinical trial-

Vancouver, April 27 - 300,000 Canadians are living with type 1 diabetes (T1D). There is no known cause or cure, and the number of new cases is increasing by approximately 5% every year in Canada, with an annual health care cost of over $16 billion*. A team of researchers at Vancouver-based BCDiabetes and Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes in Toronto, working in association with the University of British Columbia (UBC), is hoping to turn the tide on this growing health crisis with clinical trials of a potential new drug cure for early-stage type 1 diabetes; a prescription drug that could curb or eliminate insulin dependence for people with T1D.

“With this new research we are hoping to find the cure for type 1 diabetes at onset,” says Dr. Tom Elliott Medical Director at BCDiabetes and Principal Investigator of the study. “We’ve seen a revolution in diabetes treatment and research in the past few years and these clinical trials are another big step toward improving outcomes for those diagnosed with diabetes and advancing efforts for a cure.”

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which beta cells that produce insulin in the pancreas are destroyed by the immune system. It generally develops in childhood or adolescence, but can also develop in adulthood, and requires a lifetime of multiple daily insulin injections or pump dependency. While insulin therapy controls glucose levels, continuous monitoring is required and people with T1D still run the risk of dangerous and life threatening high or low blood sugar levels.

Scientists believe a prescription drug may be able to stop the destruction of insulin secreting beta cells caused by T1D, allowing for more cells to be regenerated and an eradication of the disease. Following promising phase one trials, researchers in Vancouver and Toronto have launched phase two of trials of the drug ustekinumab which is currently approved to treat psoriasis, Chron’s disease and arthritis. Patients between the ages of 18-25, and within the first 100 days of their type 1 diabetes diagnosis, are being sought to participate in clinical trials of this groundbreaking research.

When a person is first diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, they are expected to have approximately 20% of their beta cells left. “We hypothesize the drug ustekinumab stops the destruction of the beta cells and allows them to regenerate,” says Dr. Elliott. “We are looking for newly diagnosed patients to participate in this research because it’s crucial for patients to take the drug early while they still have beta cells.”

24 year-old Jeremy Boerkoel was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes last October and is taking part in the current clinical trial in Vancouver. “When you are first diagnosed your life changes and you feel overwhelmed,” says Boerkoel. “For me, being part of this trial has no downside. I get to be in an environment with health professionals and receive excellent care. There is also the hope that I will be able to improve my health or be part of something even bigger by helping someone else down the road.”

Dr. Bruce Perkins, Director of the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes at Mount Sinai Hospital, will be heading the Toronto arm of the study. The research has a cross-Canada focus in order to target the largest group possible of newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes patients. He notes that Canada has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to diabetes research.

“Sir Frederick Banting is the Canadian co-discoverer of insulin. While insulin is not a cure, it helps patients live longer, healthier lives,” says Perkins. “This trial is ground-breaking in that it will determine if a prescription drug can help keep the body’s insulin producing cells alive and curb or even completely remove dependence on insulin injections for people with type 1 diabetes. This could make a real difference in the ability to manage diabetes, control glucose levels, reduce complications and could potentially result in a cure for type 1 diabetes at onset.”

About BCDiabetes

Dr. Tom Elliott has made it his life mission to improve outcomes for every British Columbian living with diabetes, and in 2005 he established BCDiabetes. Now, at the forefront of diabetes care in Canada, BCDiabetes delivers best in-class treatments and programs supported by extensive clinical trials, research, and patient advocacy. The BCDiabetes team includes physicians, nurses, dieticians, pharmacists, and support staff – all highly trained and dedicated to optimizing care & outcomes for British Columbians with diabetes. Dr. Elliott is Director of Clinical Trials and BC Diabetes. He has authored more than 60 scientific papers and is actively engaged in 15 ongoing research projects.

About Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes

The goal of the Leadership Sinai Centre for Diabetes (LSCD) at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto is to be a leader in diabetes care through clinical practice, patient education and research. A team of many different health care professionals provides care that focuses on patients and their families. LSCD aims to provide the highest quality diabetes care through the integration of clinical practice, research and education for individuals with diabetes and their families. The Centre is also committed to advancing the practice of health care through actively promoting research and continuing education for health care professionals in areas related to diabetes.


For more information on taking part in the ustekinumab RCT-UST1D2 clinical phase II trial please contact the Study Coordinator at:

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