|Nearly 300 attendees at the Desert Forum listen to speakers discuss the latest information about diabetes.|
Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions among American Indians, and City of Hope experts recently visited with local community members to spread the word about the latest diabetes prevention and treatment efforts.
Arthur D. Riggs, Ph.D., director emeritus of Beckman Research Institute, and Fouad R. Kandeel, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Division of Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism, took their expertise to an educational forum in Rancho Mirage, Calif., on May 15.
The free event, held before an audience of nearly 300 guests at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, was co-sponsored by City of Hope and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.
During the past decade, the Cahuilla Indians have loaned their Indian Canyons land for Hike for Hope, an event supporting City of Hope. Desert Women’s Council President Eileen Stern, who has overseen that annual fundraising effort (now totaling $2 million), was a driving force behind the forum.
According to the American Diabetes Association, 20.8 million people in the United
States have diabetes. About 13.3 million people have type 2 diabetes, 1 to 1.5 million have type 1 and 6.2 million remain undiagnosed.
The disease is particularly prevalent among American Indians. About 118,000 American Indians and Alaska natives, or more than 15.1 percent of the group’s population, have the disease. Lifestyle factors are thought to contribute to the high diabetes rates.
Diabetes complications cause significant health problems — and death — in most
American Indians populations. The rate of diabetic end-stage kidney disease is six times higher than in the general population; the risk of leg amputation is three to four times higher.
|Fouad R. Kandeel speaks at the Desert Forum.|
“It’s now clear that long-term overeating and obesity, combined with lack of exercise, leads to altered metabolism, insulin resistance and inflammation,” said Riggs, professor of biology.
“Eventually, the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas die, and then one needs insulin injections.”
It was Riggs’ groundbreaking research that provided the science behind the insulin now used by millions worldwide. “Now, almost all diabetics who need insulin are using human insulin made by the process we invented,” said Riggs. “It’s pretty good at treating the symptoms, but it’s not a cure.
“I am optimistic we will be able to cure or prevent diabetes, but we are not quite there yet.
This is why, in addition to patient care, diabetes research needs to be supported.”
Kandeel, meanwhile, discussed some of the most promising research advances in the field, including islet cell transplants to improve bloodsugar control in people with type 1 diabetes.
The Southern California Islet Cell Resource Center at City of Hope is one of seven National Institutes of Health-funded centers supplying islet cells for research.
“Diabetes care consumes one out of every $7 spent on health care, and more than 25 percent of the Medicare budget” of about $174 billion in 2007, said Kandeel. “By 2025, it is expected that the number of Americans with diabetes will double.”
“The human cost,” he added, “is incalculable.”