A new clinical trial at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center is among the first to test surgery specifically for Type 2 diabetes….
The aim of the study is to understand whether surgery can control diabetes, as well or even better than the best medical treatment available today. This is the first study of its kind open to patients who are overweight or mildly obese.
Under current guidelines, bariatric surgery is only indicated for the treatment of severe or morbid obesity, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or greater. By contrast, the new study is open to patients with a BMI as low as 26. Normal-weight individuals have BMI ranging between 19 and 25 and overweight individuals have BMI between 26 and 29, whereas a BMI above 30 defines obesity. Patients with a BMI below 26 and above 35 will not be considered for enrollment in the trial.
Previous research has shown that in severely obese patients (BMI greater than 35) gastric bypass surgery is a safe and effective way to treat Type 2 diabetes. It has been shown to improve or normalize blood glucose levels, reduce or even eliminate the need for medication, and lower the risk for diabetes-related death.
Dr. Francesco Rubino, chief of the gastrointestinal metabolic surgery program at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center and associate professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College stated that, “There is preliminary evidence suggesting that that these results are attainable even in overweight or mildly-obese patients.”
In support of this belief, recommendations from the American Diabetes Association’s January 2009 issue of Standards of Care: Diabetes Care, and from the Diabetes Surgery Summit Consensus Conference, published in the March 2010 issue Annals of Surgery, suggest that randomized clinical trials for the study of surgery in patients with BMI below 35 are a priority for diabetes research.
“Having a potentially effective surgical option against diabetes does not mean that surgery is the best choice for every diabetic patient,” Dr. Rubino adds. “We need rigorous, comparative clinical trials, like this one, in order to better understand when to prioritize surgery and when to recommend traditional medical treatment.”
The new study is enrolling 50 patients with Type 2 diabetes who will be randomized to receive surgery — specifically, Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass — or traditional medical therapy and intensive lifestyle modification. All patients will be counseled in lifestyle modification techniques like diet and exercise.
Dr. Rubino expects that there will be medical advantages for patients in both arms of the trial since those assigned to the medical arm will receive the most rigorous medical diabetes therapy available. A multidisciplinary team of diabetes and nutrition experts will take care of patients using the most current, approved drugs for diabetes as well as an intensive approach to lifestyle changes. Patients in the medical arm will also be offered the chance to switch study arms and have surgery free of charge after the study is complete, or earlier should their diabetes remain poorly controlled after medical and lifestyle therapy.
Dr. Rubino and his co-investigators believe their study may also help identify better criteria than BMI for selection of surgical candidates. Previous research by Dr. Rubino studied how bariatric surgery alleviates diabetes, showing that the effect on diabetes is not entirely explained by a person’s weight loss. In fact, the gastrointestinal tract serves as an endocrine organ and a key player in the regulation of insulin secretion, body weight and appetite, which is why altering the GI tract has such profound metabolic effects.
The current study aims to shed more light on the mechanisms of action of gastric bypass on diabetes. To do this, Dr. Rubino and his co-investigators will measure gut hormone responses to meal stimulation when an equivalent amount of weight loss has been achieved in both surgically and conventionally treated patients. This design may help uncover endocrine effects specific to gastric bypass surgery beyond those associated with non-surgical weight loss.
“Understanding how gastric bypass surgery functions may help us learn how diabetes works,” Dr. Rubino says. “This knowledge has the potential to lead to the development of new minimally invasive procedures, devices interventions and better pharmaceutical treatments.”
Press Release, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center