Immune therapy has transformed cancer care. In some cases, cancer is effectively cured in people with stage 4 disease. But it has a catch: In about one percent of people treated with immune therapy, their immune system goes haywire, and it attacks the beta cells in the pancreas, leaving them with type 1 diabetes (T1D) for life. Breakthrough T1D and The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust have teamed up with the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy for a collaborative research initiative to better understand this phenomenon. The three nonprofits are jointly funding $10 million in research over a three-year period, in which they will follow 1,600 patients receiving cancer immune therapy and at risk for T1D—with the ultimate goal to develop preventive therapies that will be used for people with cancer and those without.

Here is Simi Ahmed, Ph.D., the lead of the immune therapies program at Breakthrough T1D, discussing this innovative approach, and explaining what it can teach us about T1D:

This emerging area of study has the autoimmunity and cancer communities interacting at a scale that extends far beyond their interactions of the past. This opens up tremendous learning opportunities. In addition, because multiple autoimmune manifestations arise because of cancer immune therapy, different autoimmune areas are beginning to revisit the topic of common mechanisms of autoimmunity with a different lens. What all of this means is the beginning of conversations that are novel and exciting, with great potential to accelerate the pace of medical science.

Breakthrough T1D is grateful to the Ladish Company Foundation for kick-starting this research in 2017, with a gift of $2 million, to uncover common and distinct mechanisms between T1D and other diseases, including cancer, and develop interventions for them. We appreciate this generous and timely support.

Read more about how immune therapy is helping to turn type 1 into type none here.