Mass General researcher investigating possible fibromyalgia vaccine

There is new hope for millions of Americans living with the chronic pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia. A Boston researcher hopes to start work on a potential vaccine that could be a game changer for these patients.

The symptoms started suddenly for Stephen Golder back in 1990.

“The bones in my skull, I felt like they were expanding and on fire,” Golder said.

The Falmouth psychologist was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, something he’d never heard of. He tried medications, but none of them worked well. He exercises on “good days” and does daily self-hypnosis to find relief, but he’s still in pain, and he’s not alone.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, about 5 million Americans have the disorder. They experience pain or tenderness all over their body, fatigue and problems with thinking and memory.

Offering some hope, Dr. Bruce Gillis, CEO of California company EpicGenetics, has made a research gift to the Immunobiology Laboratory at the Massachusetts General Hospital directed by Denise Faustman, M.D., Ph.D., to continue its robust clinical research regarding a direct treatment for fibromyalgia.

Dr. Gillis believes fibromyalgia is caused by protein abnormalities in white blood cells. Those abnormalities are what the company’s Fm/A test looks for.

“Because these cells only live one to seven days, we perceive there’s something genetic or something related to your DNA that is causing this,” Gillis said.

That’s where Dr. Faustman comes in. Her lab is working with a 100-year-old vaccine used to prevent tuberculosis in other countries. Called BcG, Dr. Faustman says GLOBAL data shows it could also be the answer for patients with fibromyalgia.

“This vaccine in non-fibromyalgia patients corrects these abnormalities. So now, it is just totally logical to say, ‘Can we give fibromyalgia patients defined with these abnormalities this cheap, generic drug and flip the abnormalities in the immune system back to normal?'” Faustman said.

If that’s proven true, it would be life-altering for Stephen Golder.

“It would give me my life back. Maybe I could really be normal again,” Golder said.

With funding from Gillis, Dr. Faustman is now working on securing Food and Drug Administration clinical trial approval to test the theory. They hope to start recruiting a year from now. For more information about the Fm/a test and the trial, click here.


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