“Will I still be able to surf?”

That was what first went through Anders’ head when he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 29.

“I’d lost about 10 kilos in six weeks. My gut feeling was there was bound to be a simple explanation and I wasn’t that concerned, but my girlfriend encouraged me to go see a doctor.”

“I had other symptoms, in hindsight. My mouth was very dry, and I was drinking lots of water, but it didn’t occur to me to mention this to the doctor.”

The diagnosis led Anders to become one of 90 participants in Australia’s first clinical trial for an immunotherapy drug for type 1 diabetes, led by scientists at St Vincent’s Institute of Medical Research (SVI).

The drug baricitinib is approved globally for treating rheumatoid arthritis, but SVI researchers have discovered it may also stop the immune system from attacking insulin-producing cells in the pancreas – the ultimate cause of type 1 diabetes.

Friends and family had heard about the new trial in media reports. Anders said he immediately considered enrolling.

“The more altruistic reason was that I could play a role in research that could potentially help people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in future. Having just been diagnosed, I understood how very tough it could be.”

“Secondly, I really hope this works and makes my diabetes easier to manage. I realise there’s a chance I may be one of the participants receiving the placebo drug, but at the end of the day, I’m getting great care, and contributing to what I think is an important research project.”

Taking part in a clinical trial raised many questions for Anders.

“The endocrinologist leading the trial at the hospital was very reassuring. He walked me through the questions I had about the information and put it into more familiar terms for me.”

And Anders has found a way to continue enjoying surfing: “That’s been a really positive revelation,” he says.

He believes new treatments for people with type 1 diabetes will be found – and applauds the determination of scientists and clinicians to make this happen.

“You just never know when a trial like this is going to lead to a huge breakthrough.”

Page last updated: 21 November 2022