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Cancer drug Gleevec holds promise for type 2 diabetes

The drug lowered the level of insulin resistance in mice and reduced the risk for hyperglycemia and obesity without causing severe side effects.
By Stephen Feller   |   March 28, 2016 at 12:16 PM

ULSAN, South Korea, March 28 (UPI) -- A cancer drug lowered the level of insulin resistance in mice in a recent study, and reduced the risk for hyperglycemia and obesity without causing severe side effects.

The effects of Gleevec on insulin sensitivity and blood sugar levels was similar to another group of drugs called thiazolidinediones, researchers in South Korea report in a study published in the journal Diabetes.

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Thiazolidinediones, or TZDs, are a group of drugs that block the transcription factor PPARy, which is important for metabolization of glucose, storage of fat and inflammatory responses. The factor is also related to diabetes; researchers found that removing phosphoric acid from PPARy lowers risk factors for diabetes.

TZDs were removed from the market after severe side effects were reported, including an increased risk of heart failure, making a drug with a similar effect on PPARy a significant find.

"Although studies have shown that Gleevec treatment may show improved insulin sensitivity and decrease blood glucose in patients with known diabetes, the exact cause hasn't been proven yet," Jang Hyun Choi, a professor in the school of life sciences at the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology, said in a press release. "Through this research, we discovered Gleevec, which is used in leukemia medications, can inhibit the phosphorylation of PPARγ."

In the study, researchers found Gleevec showed improved insulin sensitivity in mice fed high-fat diets, without severe side effects. The drug also reduced lipogenic and gluconeogenic gene expression in the liver, and improved inflammation in adipose tissue, all of which the researchers said are useful against type 2 diabetes.

"Taken together, Gleevec exhibits greater beneficial effects on both glucose/lipid metabolism and energy homeostasis by blocking PPARγ phosphorylation," the researchers write in the study. "These data illustrate that Gleevec could be a novel therapeutic agent for use in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes."

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