An experimental drug now being studied in people with leukemia has a potent anti-diabetic effect in mice with the disease and could prove valuable in treating people with the disease, said researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in a report in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Success with mice

"We took a newly developed drug that is being studied clinically in patients with leukemia and used it at a dose well below that used for cancer," said Dr. Lawrence C. B. Chan, professor of medicine, molecular and cellular biology, and biochemistry at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the federally funded Diabetes and Endocrine Research Center at BCM. "We found it to be effective in reversing diabetes in mice. It is possible that the paper may pave the way for launching human studies of a new drug for diabetes."

The drug, triterpenoid 2-Cyano-3,12-dioxooleana-1,9-dien-28-oic-acid methyl ester (CDDO-Me), has potent anti-cancer effects in the laboratory and in animal studies. Chan and his colleagues collaborated with two MD Anderson researchers, who are studying the drug in humans.

"They told us that the drug has few or no side effects at the substantially higher dose they use for cancer," said Chan.

Effects on type 2 diabetes

He and his colleagues studied the effects of the drug in mouse models that have type 2 diabetes. They found that the drug reduced body fat without affecting weight or food intake, reversing diabetes in diabetic mice that developed the disease after eating a high fat diet. The drug also improved insulin sensitivity and stabilization of glucose levels in the mice.

They determined that the reversal came about because skeletal muscles were more sensitive to the effects of insulin.

Others who took part in this research include Pradip K. Saha and Vasumathi T. Reddy of BCM and Marina Konopleva and Michael Andreeff of MD Anderson.

Funding for this work came from the National Institutes of Health, the Betty Rutherford Chair in Diabetes Research, St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital and the T.T. & W.F. Chao Global Foundation.

Chan holds the Betty Rutherford Chair in Diabetes Research.