Posted October 9, 2015

Check out a video of Dr Fajgenbaum accepting the 2015 RARE Champion of Hope: Science Award: 

RARE Champion of Hope - Science from Global Genes on Vimeo.

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PHILADELPHIA - David Fajgenbaum, MD, MBA, MSc, a research assistant professor of Medicine, division of Hematology/Oncology, in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has received the RARE Champion of Hope award for science.

The honor recognizes Fajgenbaum’s efforts in driving forward clinically meaningful research for Castleman disease as a researcher at Penn and through co-founding and serving as executive director of the Castleman Disease Collaborative Network (CDCN), a global network of physicians, researchers, patients, and loved ones dedicated to accelerating research and treatment for Castleman disease and supporting patients with the condition. The award was presented by Global Genes, a global rare disease patient advocacy organization.

Dave receiving Global Genes

Castleman disease describes a group of inflammatory disorders with symptoms that range from a single enlarged lymph node to life-threatening multiple organ failure. The disease involves the body’s immune system becoming activated and releasing inflammatory proteins that can shut down the liver, kidneys, and bone marrow. The disease has an incidence similar to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), being diagnosed in about 6,500 to 7,700 patients of all ages each year in the US.

Fajgenbaum is a physician-scientist, advocate, and a patient. He was diagnosed with idiopathic multicentric Castleman disease (iMCD) in 2010. The multicentric subtype has a 65-percent-five-year survival rate, which is nearly as deadly as the average for all cancers combined. Treating the iMCD subtype has been challenging because it is so poorly understood. Since Fajgenbaum began spearheading research in 2012, he and his associates have:

  • connected a global community of over 300 physicians and researchers through an online community and the three largest-ever Castleman disease meetings;
  • published a new model of pathogenesis for iMCD, in the leading hematology journal, Blood;
  • engaged over 3,000 patients and loved ones through online forums and in-person meetings;
  • crowdsourced to establish an international research agenda with prioritized studies to uncover iMCD pathogenesis;
  • recruited experts to launch four high-impact studies; and
  • finalized plans for a global patient research study, which will help to improve patient care and accelerate research.

With the correct disease model in place, the CDCN is now focused on identifying what triggers the intense immune activation, which immune cells are activated, what cellular pathways are activated, and what existing or novel therapies may be effective for patients that do not respond to the only FDA-approved therapy.

CDCN is currently launching four studies and a $250,000 fundraising campaign. Arthur Rubenstein, MBBCh, Vera Krymskaya, PhD, MBA, Kojo Elenitoba-Johnston, MD, and Megan Lim, MD, PhD, among other Penn faculty members, are also actively engaged in Castleman disease research.

For these efforts, Fajgenbaum was recognized in Forbes magazine’s 2015 30 Under 30 list for health care. He has also recently accepted a position as associate director of patient impact for the Penn Orphan Disease Center.

Fajgenbaum and recipients in other categories were recognized at the 4th Annual RARE Tribute to Champions of Hope this month in Huntington Beach, Calif.


To read the full list of honorees, please visit