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Medical student with rare disease finds possible cure from studying his own blood samples

An in any other case wholesome medical pupil wasn’t going to let a uncommon illness cease him from dwelling life to the fullest.

Dr. David Fajgenbaum was in his third 12 months of medical college when he acquired so sick he needed to be hospitalized for 5 months. Docs informed him his liver, kidney and different organs have been shutting down.

At 25 years previous, Fajgenbaum was identified with Castleman illness, a situation that acts like a cross between most cancers and an autoimmune dysfunction. Based on the Nationwide Group for Uncommon Problems (NORD) there are about 5,000 folks identified with Castleman illness within the U.S. every year, making it roughly as widespread as Lou Gehrig’s illness, also called ALS.

Individuals who have Castleman illness can expertise things like flu-like signs and belly ache to the whole failure of a number of organ techniques.

“The diagnosis took about 11 weeks, and most of that time I was in the intensive care unit,” Fajgenbaum informed Fox Information. “I had a retinal hemorrhage and went blind in my left eye. I gained about 70 pounds of fluid and I was so sick that I had my last rites read to me right around the time the diagnosis was made.”


Having a uncommon illness usually means restricted info and few if any therapy choices.

When Fajgenbaum was identified with Castleman illness there was just one drug at present permitted by the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration (FDA), however that he relapsed on, leaving him with no different remedy decisions.

I promised my dad, my sisters, and my now spouse that I would dedicate the remainder of my life, nonetheless lengthy which may be, to attempting to treatment this illness

— Dr. David Fajgenbaum

“When I relapsed on the only drug in development and my doctor told me that there was nothing coming down the pipeline and there were no promising leads, that’s when I promised my dad, my sisters, and my now wife that I would dedicate the rest of my life, however long that may be, to trying to cure this disease,” Fajgenbaum mentioned.

In slightly greater than three years, Fajgenbaum relapsed 4 instances, practically lacking demise every time.

But with the assistance of chemotherapy conserving his illness at bay, Fajgenbaum was capable of end medical college and suggest to his school sweetheart. However as an alternative of beginning a residency, he based the Castleman Illness Collaborative Community (CDCN), to “drive forward research internationally but also to begin conducting laboratory work.”

“We’ve made a lot of progress in the last seven years since I started the CDCN and we’ve invested about $1 million into research, which has led to an additional $7 million in external funding from the government and from non-profits,” Fajgenbaum mentioned.

With specialists collaborating collectively from across the globe and a “relatively limited amount of funding” Fajgenbaum and his group recognized the primary novel drug goal in 25 years.

“That drug target that we identified, I actually identified it in my lab using my own samples,” mentioned Fajgenbaum, who can be an assistant professor of medication within the division of Translational Drugs & Human Genetics on the College of Pennsylvania. “I started myself on this drug Sirolimus about five and a half years ago and I’ve been in remission ever since.”

Fajgenbaum was the primary affected person to attempt Sirolimus as a therapy for Castleman illness, however he and his workforce will take a look at the therapy in a scientific trial scheduled to start on the College of Pennsylvania later this 12 months.

Fajgenbaum, now 34 years previous, with a spouse and 1-year-old daughter, chronicled his journey to a treatment in a brand new guide, “Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race to Turn Hope into Action.”


“I wrote this book because there’s lessons that I’ve learned about life, lessons about living from nearly dying five times, lessons that hopefully will inspire people to turn their hopes into action and create silver linings in the midst of tough times,” Fajgenbaum mentioned.


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