Type 1 Diabetes Prevention: a systematic review of studies testing disease-modifying therapies and features linked to treatment response

medRxiv. 2023 Apr 17:2023.04.12.23288421. doi: 10.1101/2023.04.12.23288421. Preprint


Background: Type 1 diabetes (T1D) results from immune-mediated destruction of insulin-producing beta cells. Efforts to prevent T1D have focused on modulating immune responses and supporting beta cell health; however, heterogeneity in disease progression and responses to therapies have made these efforts difficult to translate to clinical practice, highlighting the need for precision medicine approaches to T1D prevention.

Methods: To understand the current state of knowledge regarding precision approaches to T1D prevention, we performed a systematic review of randomized-controlled trials from the past 25 years testing disease-modifying therapies in T1D and/or identifying features linked to treatment response, analyzing bias using a Cochrane-risk-of-bias instrument.

Results: We identified 75 manuscripts, 15 describing 11 prevention trials for individuals with increased risk for T1D, and 60 describing treatments aimed at preventing beta cell loss in individuals at disease onset. Seventeen agents tested, mostly immunotherapies, showed benefit compared to placebo (only two prior to T1D onset). Fifty-seven studies employed precision analyses to assess features linked to treatment response. Age, measures of beta cell function and immune phenotypes were most frequently tested. However, analyses were typically not prespecified, with inconsistent methods reporting, and tended to report positive findings.

Conclusions: While the quality of prevention and intervention trials was overall high, low quality of precision analyses made it difficult to draw meaningful conclusions that inform clinical practice. Thus, prespecified precision analyses should be incorporated into the design of future studies and reported in full to facilitate precision medicine approaches to T1D prevention.

Plain language summary: Type 1 diabetes (T1D) results from the destruction of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, necessitating lifelong insulin dependence. T1D prevention remains an elusive goal, largely due to immense variability in disease progression. Agents tested to date in clinical trials work in a subset of individuals, highlighting the need for precision medicine approaches to prevention. We systematically reviewed clinical trials of disease-modifying therapy in T1D. While age, measures of beta cell function, and immune phenotypes were most commonly identified as factors that influenced treatment response, the overall quality of these studies was low. This review reveals an important need to proactively design clinical trials with well-defined analyses to ensure that results can be interpreted and applied to clinical practice.

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