According to the study, which has been carried out by researchers across the UK and was presented at Diabetes UK’s annual Diabetes Professional Conference recently, hurdles to recruitment in trials about the role of the immune system in the development of type 1 diabetes are being overcome through use of a national database, a dedicated Facebook page and a feedback ‘Dragon’s Den’ group of patients who critically review the whole process.

Trials focused on the role of the immune system in type 1 diabetes, which develops when the immune system attacks cells in the pancreas, rely on recruiting people within 100 days of diagnosis. But progress in understanding the condition has been held back because it has been difficult to recruit and retain young, often working people, especially given the intensive treatment involved.

The MonoPepT1De trial, funded by JDRF, successfully recruited 24 participants, from 216 potentially eligible subjects. Numbers of potential participants doubled after researchers linked to the national database.

Dr Alasdair Rankin, Director of Research at Diabetes UK, said: “We know that recruiting for this kind of Type 1 clinical trial can be hard. Patients have a lot to cope with when they have recently been diagnosed with a life-long condition and this also often leads to a high drop out rate. It is great that researchers are looking at innovative ways to help address this, as in the long term it could bring us one step closer to developing a vaccine for Type 1 diabetes for future generations.”

Dr Yuk-Fun Liu, from King’s College London’s Department of Immunobiology, who presents the study with support from Diabetes UK, said: “We rely on patient participation in clinical trials to help us better understand Type 1 diabetes. Often patients have to be enrolled soon after diagnosis in order to optimise the effects of drugs on the pancreas. Understandably, this can be a difficult time for those who have just received the diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes and clinical teams may be reluctant to approach them regarding research at this time.

“The good news is that within our trial participants have told us that they have benefited from the education and support they have received during their time with us. By building public awareness of research and reinforcing communication via healthcare teams for early identification, recruiting into clinical trials can be streamlined to aid progress towards better management and a potential cure for Type 1 diabetes.”

Dr Yuk-Fun Liu’s Fellowship is funded by Diabetes UK.