Tobias and I were invited as press to attend the 77th ADA Scientific Sessions in San Diego, and oh boy, was it fun. We got a chance to meet all the diabetes advocates, the insulin pump and CGM companies, and a lot of awesome people living and working with diabetes.
We also got to check out the newest diabetes tools and learn about the latest diabetes research.
There are a lot of exciting things going on in the diabetes world right now. Here is an overview of my 4 top takeaways from the 77th ADA Scientific Sessions.
A cure for type 1 diabetes that doesn’t look like sci-fi (or wishful thinking)
Wouldn’t a cure for diabetes be fantastic? I mean, sign me up!
However, we have been promised a cure so many times over the last 20 years, and it always seem to be more wishful thinking than reality. So I was skeptical but also super excited when I heard about several trials and studies that actually sounded promising.
Dr. Carla J. Greenbaum is testing a vaccine for people at risk of developing type 1 diabetes (don’t have diabetes but may be genetically predisposed). An early study has shown that the approach doesn’t work for everyone, but has potential for a subgroup of people who already have elevated insulin autoantibodies. Imagine if we could see just a percentage decline in the number of type 1 diabetes diagnoses!!
For people who have been recently diagnosed; Dr. Stephen Gitelman discussed the use of a cancer medication (Gleevec) in adults with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes. Dr. Gitelman stressed that it’s not a cure, but it looks like the drug can potentially boost insulin production in newly diagnosed people with type 1 diabetes who still produce some insulin themselves. That could mean they could slow down the progression of type 1, although it’s not clear for how long.
For those of us who’ve been living with diabetes for a while; Dr. Denise Faustman presented results from her Phase II clinical trials using a generic (BCG) tuberculosis vaccine to reverse type 1 diabetes. The cool thing is that this is not only promising for a cure for type 1 but also for a cure for many other autoimmune diseases. To simplify it, the vaccine looks to restore the proper immune response to the insulin-secreting islet cells of the pancreas. It basically restores the immune response to what it’s supposed to be like.
I don’t think we will see any of these studies lead to a cure in the near future, but it’s exciting to see new research that has potential!
Hybrid closed loop pump technology is here, proven to work, and where all pumps seem to be going
I love diabetes tech and I love options, so the fact that three of the major pump companies are capable of creating algorithms for hybrid closed loop pump systems was exciting.
Medtronic showed off their 670G, a hybrid closed-loop insulin pump, during the conference. It features their SmartGuard® HCL technology, which means that the pump will turn off insulin before hypoglycemia happens and resume when blood sugars are back up in a safe range, plus it can adjust basal levels throughout the day.
It pretty much just got to the US market and it will be fun to see how people with diabetes like it. I know a few who used the 530G (the 670G predecessor) and turned off the LGS (low glucose suspend) functionality because they found it too inaccurate, so hopefully things have changed and the 670G system will be more trustworthy.
Both Insulet (Omnipod) and Tandem released studies related to their hybrid closed loop technology and it looks like both companies are hustling to get their systems approved. While the Medtronic system uses their own CGM, both Insulet and Tandem collaborate with Dexcom.
Insulet’s study demonstrated that their algorithm, the predictive control (MPC) algorithm, was effective in controlling glucose levels in children and adolescents, just as previous studies have shown for adults. So basically, they demonstrated that this system will work for anybody, regardless of age.
Tandem’s study demonstrated that their predictive low glucose suspend (PLGS) algorithm works as intended. This means that they can submit the t:slim X2 Pump with predictive low glucose suspend to the FDA later this year with the hope of launching it in early 2018.
What I love about this is that it looks like we will have several options on the market in the US for hybrid closed loop by 2018. That means that people with diabetes will have the option of choosing between a tethered button pump, a tethered touch screen pump and a patch pump all with the hybrid closed loop technology included… assuming the insurance companies don’t limit access to any of the systems.
Increased focus on the mental side of diabetes
I’m happy to say that both doctors and the industry have started to put more emphasis on the mental stress and pressure that people living with diabetes face. This increased focus hopefully means that more medical teams will know what to be on the lookout for and that they will be better equipped to support those who need it.
I find it really alarming that there is an increased risk of depression, anxiety and eating disorders for people living with diabetes. That’s why I was pleased to learn that ADA has partnered with American Psychological Association (APA) and created the Mental Health Provider Diabetes Education Program.
I had a chance to sit down with Mark Heyman from the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health who is a part of the initiative. It’s a continued education program for licensed mental health providers who are interested in being able to provide “support in the psychosocial care of people with diabetes”.
Participants received a 7-hour training course during the conference and will have to complete an online module as well. As Mark points out, a short continued-education program won’t make them experts, but they will know more and will know where to go for more information and support.
The doctors who complete the course will be listed in the ADA Mental Health Provider Referral Directory, which will be freely accessible on the Association’s website. So, if you need support, this will be a great place to go (it isn’t live yet).
The diabetes community and influencers said goodbye to Diabetes Hands Foundation
I was one of the 2017 Diabetes Hands Foundation (DHF) fellows and it turns out that I was part of the last class. Just before the conference, it was announced that DHF will be closing down and will be handing over its forums (TuDiabetes, EsTuDiabetes) to Beyond Type 1.
The TuDiabetes forums were some of the first diabetes communities and where a lot of people started learning more about diabetes and connecting with each other, so it was emotional to say goodbye.
On Saturday night, a lot of people from the diabetes community came together in San Diego to celebrate everything DHF has done for the community and to say a proper goodbye.
I really appreciate how the community supports each other and, even though DHF is no more, the bonds built and the lessons learned are forever.
Suggested next post: The Pros and Cons of Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM)