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SAN FRANCISCO — About a decade ago, David Fajgenbaum thought his life was over. He was a young, bright physician hoping to work in oncology in remembrance of his mother, who died of brain cancer a few years earlier. Fajgenbaum was having his last rites read to him, and his family braced for his death from Castleman disease, a rare inflammatory illness that impacts the lymph nodes and can severely damage other organs.

But, in a rare stroke of skill and luck, Fajgenbaum was able to repurpose a generic drug, sirolimus, and go into remission.


“After dying almost five times in three years, it’s been over nine years that I’ve been in remission on this drug,” Fajgenbaum said in a session Thursday here at STAT’s Breakthrough Summit.

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