FISHERS, Ind. — Researchers at Indiana University’s School of Medicine say there has been a “major breakthrough” in diabetes treatment, and a 9-year-old in Fishers is at the center of it.
He is the first child in Indiana to take a new drug that could delay type 1 diabetes by two or more years.
Insulin was discovered a century ago, and since then – all people with diabetes can do is manage the disease. But today, experts say things are looking up – especially for one 9-year-old Colin Ozdemir.
Ozdemir is in stage two of type 1 diabetes. He doesn’t have any symptoms yet, but without a new immunotherapy drug, his mother Kelli believes he would have been fully dependent on insulin within a year.
“We know it is going to progress for him, so if we can delay it, we’re going to do anything we can,” Kelli Ozdemir said.
Colin spent 14 days going to the hospital this summer – receiving an infusion of “teplizumab,” a treatment designed to delay the onset of type 1 diabetes. The FDA approved teplizumab in November 2022.
“I was trying to sleep a lot,” Colin Ozdemir said, recalling his hospital visits. “They kept waking me up a lot to take my blood pressure and switch the medicine.”
But, those two weeks of discomfort could have bought him years before needing to worry about taking insulin.
“There have been advances in technology and insulin, but this is really the first to change the course of the disease,” Riley Children’s Health Pediatric Endocrinologist Dr. Jamie Felton said.
Ozdemir’s father, Gemi, was skeptical at first – but now he’s optimistic.
“Buying Colin five years from now… there’s going to be a cure in his lifetime,” Gemi Ozdemir said. “There’s certainly a cure within reach. We can see it.”
Colin was screened in the first place because two of his older sisters have diabetes – both of whom are on insulin pumps and need to regularly monitor their levels.
“All of the things that the girls have to worry about every minute of the day, he doesn’t have to think about yet,” Kelli Ozdemir said. “He can progress for hopefully several years and really have that childhood that I feel like was kind of taken away from Ella and Kate.”
Riley Pediatric Endocrinologist Jamie Felton said the onset of diabetes has been delayed by a median of five years across patients. The first trials began in 2010, and she said some of the original patients still haven’t developed the disease.
“We can’t say that that’s the norm, or what most people experience, but I think it’s possible,” Felton said.
The Ozdemir family says the message in all of this is to have your kids screened if they have any risk factors for type 1 diabetes. You might be able to slow it down.
“Getting any sort of diagnosis is scary, especially when you don’t have the tools or the options available to you to do anything about it – which was how it was until November of 2022. Now there’s a treatment for it,” Kelli Ozdemir said.
The JDRF Foundation is hosting a walk to raise awareness and money for type 1 diabetes research. It will take place on September 16 at IUPUI’s Michael A. Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium.