Conference Coverage

Type 2 diabetes is particularly devastating in adolescents



Type 2 diabetes is much more aggressive in adolescents than in adults, and by the time those with youth-onset diabetes reach their early 20s, they are beset with disease-related complications usually seen in older populations, findings from the RISE and TODAY2 studies have demonstrated.

M. Alexander Otto/Mdedge News

Dr. Philip Zeitler

“Additional research is urgently needed to better understand the reasons for this more serious trajectory,” Philip Zeitler, MD, PhD, of Children’s Hospital Colorado, Aurora, said at the annual scientific sessions of the American Diabetes Association. The hope is to identify at-risk children and prevent the disease, but at this point “we don’t know the answer.”

In the meantime, “we are getting more aggressive with bariatric surgery at our center, because nothing else is working as well. It would be nice to move away from that, but these kids are going to die,” he added.

Steven Kahn, MD, of the diabetes Research Center at the University of Washington, Seattle, presented the findings from a comparison of outcomes from the Restoring Insulin Secretion (RISE) studies in adolescents aged 10-19 years and in adults. The RISE Pediatric Medication Study (Diabetes Care. 2018; 41[8]:1717-25) and RISE Adult Medication Study were parallel investigations treatments to preserve or improve beta-cell function.

Dr. Steven E. Kahn, an endocrinology professor and director of the Diabetes Research Center at the University of Washington, Seattle M. Alexander Otto/MDedge News

Dr. Steven E. Kahn

“This is the first-ever true comparison of outcomes in youth versus adults,” he said. Both arms had the same design and lab measurements, but the differences in outcomes were “very scary,” he added. “The disease is much more aggressive in youth than in adults.”

Among other things, the RISE youth-versus-adult study compared the outcomes after 3 months of insulin glargine followed by 9 months of metformin, or 12 months of metformin in 132 obese adults and 91 obese adolescents with impaired glucose tolerance or recently diagnosed type 2 diabetes. The treatments were stopped after 12 months, and the participants were reevaluated at 15 months. Hyperglycemic clamps were conducted at baseline, 12 months, and 3 months after treatment cessation (Diabetes. 2019 Jun 9. doi: 10.2337/db19-0299).

In adults, treatment improved insulin sensitivity and beta-cell response, but after treatment cessation, they reverted to baseline by the 15-month evaluation. However, there was no improvement in insulin sensitivity and beta-cell response in adolescents, either during treatment or after cessation, and in fact, they were worse off at 15 months than they had been at baseline, with lower insulin secretion and higher hemoglobin A1c.

Those stark differences in outcomes between the adolescents and adults were indicative of a more aggressive disease trajectory for younger patients.

Compliance was not the issue, with more than 80% of both adults and children taking more than 80% of their medications, Dr. Kahn said.

He suggested that adolescents might have a different underlying pathology that makes it worse to develop diabetes during puberty, which is already an insulin-resistant state. But, whatever the case, there is an “urgent need” to better understand the differences between adolescents and adults and to find better treatments for younger patients with diabetes, he said.

In regard to using weight loss as a means of treatment or prevention, Dr. Zeitler emphasized that type 2 diabetes in younger patients “occurs in a context of very low socioeconomic status, family dysfunction, and a great deal of stress and [family] illness. It’s often a complex situation and it’s difficult to accomplish effective lifestyle change when families are struggling to have afford quality food, facing challenges of family and neighborhood violence, and working multiple jobs.”

The RISE findings of a more aggressive deterioration in beta-cell function for younger patients were reflected in outcomes in the TODAY2 study, which found that adolescents who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes face severe renal, cardiovascular, eye, and nerve complications by the time they reach their early 20s.

TODAY2 was an 8-year follow-up to the Treatment Options for Type 2 Diabetes in Adolescents and Youth (TODAY) trial published in 2012 (N Engl J Med. 2012;366:2247-56). Data from the original study of patients aged 10-17 years with type 2 diabetes showed that after a roughly 4-year follow-up, almost half of all participants had experienced loss of glycemic control on their original treatment assignment, a rate much higher than that reported in adults. Metformin plus rosiglitazone was superior to metformin alone in maintaining durable glycemic control and metformin plus an intensive lifestyle intervention was intermediate to the other groups, but not significantly different from them. In addition, metformin alone was found to be least effective in non-Hispanic black patients, metformin and rosiglitazone was most effective in girls.

Overall, 517 participants of the original study’s 669 participants are still being followed as part of the TODAY2 trial. They are managed in community practices now and are in their early 20s, on average.

But, less than 10 years down the road from TODAY, the young adults “have problems you’d expect in your grandparents. Target-organ damage is already evident, and serious cardiovascular events are occurring,” Dr. Zeitler said.

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