'Practical cure' may be more realistic objective.
NEW YORK -- As it looks to find what it calls a "practical cure" for type 1 diabetes, the Juvenile Diabetes Cure Alliance (JDCA) stresses that such a cure does not have to completely eradicate the disease.
"An idealized cure is predicated upon entirely eliminating the disease," JDCA says in its "State of the Cure 2013" report released last month. "In contrast, a practical cure is much wider in scope and includes any solution that frees a person with type 1 from the daily burden of the disease and the worry of complications.
While JDCA says it would be overjoyed if researchers found a way to completely wipe out type 1 diabetes, the fact is that scientists have been unsuccessful in their pursuit of such a cure for more than a century.
"Even now, idealized cure research is at such an early stage of conceptual development that it is unlikely to deliver a cure in time to benefit anyone who is currently living with type 1 ," the JDCA report says, noting that many of the individual donors and organizations that are funding diabetes research expect a cure to be available much sooner.
Over the past two years, JDCA has done eight surveys of the type 1 diabetes donor community to gauge donors' expectations, priorities and attitudes about cure progress.
The report notes that 90% of donors feel that practical cure research is more important right now than idealized cure research.
"Many people with type 1 diabetes have been hearing that a cure is imminent since they were diagnosed, even if that diagnosis was decades ago," the JDCA report says. "Expectations are stoked by the flurry of news stories about reversing type 1 diabetes in mice, research progress touted as on the cusp of a major breakthrough and fund-raising events that promise to find a cure."
The alliance's research found that 70% of donors believe a cure will actually arrive in the next 10 years.
"Given the value and expectation placed on delivering results within the next decade, it is no surprise that donors nearly universally state that they would much prefer to fund projects that may deliver results in a shorter time line than projects that are on a much longer time horizon," JDCA says.
Still, the report notes that funding for practical cure research is woefully inadequate with only about 2 cents of every dollar donated by nonprofit groups directed to practical cure research projects.
The biggest funder of efforts to find a practical cure has been the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which directed $6 million, or 3%, of its $196 million in donations last year to practical cure research. The Diabetes Research Institute Foundation, however, provided the most balanced approach to curing diabetes, giving 27%, or $3 million of its $11 million in donations, to practical cure research.
JDCA says that neither the American Diabetes Association nor the Joslin Diabetes Center steered any funds to practical cure research.
"A transformative shift in the cure research strategies is needed to create a more balanced research portfolio," JDCA says. "If the nonprofits are to spend donor money according to donor wishes, a higher percentage of donor contributions should be allocated to practical cure research."