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Immunotherapy is fighting cancer but leaving 1% of patients with diabetes – and scientists ‘have no idea why’

  • Immunotherapies are fast becoming standard cancer treatments
  • But about one percent of patients that get the immune super-charging treatment develop type 1 diabetes and have to be on insulin the rest of their lives 
  • Scientists at the Parker Institute for Cancer Research wants to investigate why some people get diabetes and others do not

Immunotherapy has revolutionized cancer treatment and survival rates, but it comes with a cost and, for some patients, that is a lifetime of diabetes and insulin dependence.

Why the game-changing treatment causes this very particular side effect remains a mystery.

So far, only about one percent of immunotherapy patients seem to develop diabetes, but as the relatively new treatment becomes more common, drug-related diabetes might too.

Though it’s manageable with vigilantly monitored glucose levels and insulin injections, diabetes can be life-threatening, not to mention hamper quality of life for patients.

Now, scientists, including the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, are scrambling to identify how this phenomenon happens and why it happens to some patients but not others.

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