Background: The immunopathogenesis of type 1 diabetes mellitus is associated with T-cell autoimmunity. To be fully active, immune T cells need a co-stimulatory signal in addition to the main antigen-driven signal. Abatacept modulates co-stimulation and prevents full T-cell activation. We evaluated the effect of abatacept in recent-onset type 1 diabetes. Methods: In this multicentre, double-blind, randomised controlled trial, patients aged 6-45 years recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes were randomly assigned (2:1) to receive abatacept (10 mg/kg, maximum 1000 mg per dose) or placebo infusions intravenously on days 1, 14, 28, and monthly for a total of 27 infusions over 2 years. Computer-generated permuted block randomisation was used, with a block size of 3 and stratified by participating site. Neither patients nor research personnel were aware of treatment assignments. The primary outcome was baseline-adjusted geometric mean 2-h area-under-the-curve (AUC) serum C-peptide concentration after a mixed-meal tolerance test at 2 years' follow-up. Analysis was by intention to treat for all patients for whom data were available. This trial is registered at ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT00505375. Findings: 112 patients were assigned to treatment groups (77 abatacept, 35 placebo). Adjusted C-peptide AUC was 59% (95% CI 6.1-112) higher at 2 years with abatacept (n=73, 0.378 nmol/L) than with placebo (n=30, 0.238 nmol/L; p=0.0029). The difference between groups was present throughout the trial, with an estimated 9.6 months' delay (95% CI 3.47-15.6) in C-peptide reduction with abatacept. There were few infusion-related adverse events (36 reactions occurred in 17 [22%] patients on abatacept and 11 reactions in six [17%] on placebo). There was no increase in infections (32 [42%] patients on abatacept vs 15 [43%] on placebo) or neutropenia (seven [9%] vs five [14%]). Interpretation: Co-stimulation modulation with abatacept slowed reduction in β-cell function over 2 years. The beneficial effect suggests that T-cell activation still occurs around the time of clinical diagnosis of type 1 diabetes. Yet, despite continued administration of abatacept over 24 months, the decrease in β-cell function with abatacept was parallel to that with placebo after 6 months of treatment, causing us to speculate that T-cell activation lessens with time. Further observation will establish whether the beneficial effect continues after cessation of abatacept infusions. Funding: US National Institutes of Health.
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