Denise Faustman

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Denise L. Faustman (born 1958[1]) is an American physician and medical researcher. An Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard University and Director of the Immunobiology Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital, her work specializes in diabetes mellitus type 1 (formerly called juvenile diabetes) and other autoimmune diseases.[2] She has worked at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston since 1985.[1]

Education and career[edit]

Faustman was born in Royal Oak, Michigan in 1958. In 1978, she received her BS in zoology and chemistry from the University of Michigan. She earned a Ph.D. in transplantation immunology in 1982 and an MD in 1985 from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. She did her internship and residency in medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital.[1]


Faustman's current research is based on the observation that autoreactive T cells (T cells that mistakenly attack the body's own cells and tissues) are more sensitive than normal T cells to the effects of TNF-alpha (TNF-α), a cytokine that influences the immune system. Under some conditions, TNF-α causes T cells to undergo apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Faustman's hypothesis is that certain autoimmune diseases can be treated by stimulating TNF-α to trigger apoptosis in autoimmune T cells.[3]

Prior to entering human clinical trials, Faustman's approach was tested in non-obese diabetic mice (NOD mice), a strain of mice that spontaneously develops type 1 diabetes. Injecting the mice with a common inflammatory agent that increases the production of TNF-α, called complete Freund's adjuvant (CFA), and a preparation of spleen cells reversed type 1 diabetes in mice with end-stage disease and allowed the beta islet cells to regenerate.[4][5]

Faustman hypothesized that this regeneration may be attributed in part to the re-differentiation of the spleen cells - that although the splenic stem cells were not obligatory for regeneration to occur, these cells could hasten regeneration.[6] The source of islet cell regeneration is debated. Faustman's team was the first to document type 1 diabetes reversal in mice and in a subsequent phase I trial demonstrated successful human clinical results who had received the BCG vaccination.[7] Researchers from three laboratories funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation confirmed that Dr. Faustman's protocol can successfully reverse type 1 diabetes in end-stage mice;[8][9][10] however, they did not find that the splenic cells played a role and suggested that the source of islet cell regeneration was proliferation of existing pancreatic islet cells. A research group led by a researcher from the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) replicated Faustman's work in mice with type 1 diabetes.[11] This group found that adult stem cells from the spleen did play a role in regeneration. They also observed that Faustman's protocol could be used to reverse Sjögren's syndrome, another autoimmune disease, in mice.

Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine[edit]

Former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca, whose wife died of type 1 diabetes complications and who has declared a desire to see the disease cured in his lifetime,[12] is a patron of her work. The Iacocca Foundation helped raise the $11.5 million needed to support a Phase I human clinical trial (for safety) at Massachusetts General Hospital to test vaccination with Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG), a weakened strain of bacteria that is used in the prevention of tuberculosis and in the treatment of bladder tumors and bladder cancer, as a potential treatment for advanced type 1 diabetes. Like CFA in the mouse (not approved for use in humans), BCG induces TNF-α production in humans. In some human trials, BCG was not found to prevent type 1 diabetes, or lead to type 1 diabetes remission in those who are newly diagnosed,[13][14][15][16][17] although one study from Israel showed disease remission in newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes,[18] and an observational study from Turkey suggestsed that multiple doses of the BCG vaccine in childhood may protect against the development of type 1 diabetes.[19][20] Faustman hypothesizes that the optimal dose of BCG was not utilized in previous trials.[2] Faustman hypothesizes that BCG could induce a permanent gene expression that restores regulatory T cells (Tregs), helping to prevent the immune system attack which characterizes type 1 diabetes.[7]

Clinical trials[edit]

Safety results from a Phase I human clinical trial testing the BCG vaccine in individuals with advanced type 1 diabetes were announced in June 2010.[21] BCG was found to be safe as administered in this trial, with no serious adverse events reported and only expected mild inflammation at the injection site.

Faustman and co-workers published efficacy data from the Phase I trial NCT00607230[22] in 2012.[23] In the double-blind, placebo-controlled proof-of-concept study, six participants with long-term (mean duration of disease 15 years) type 1 diabetes were randomized to repeated BCG vaccinations (n=3) or placebo (n=3). The participants were matched to control subjects without diabetes (n=6) and also compared to reference subjects with and without the disease. Blood samples were monitored weekly for 20 weeks. Two of the three BCG-treated participants experienced a transient but statistically significant rise in C-peptide levels compared to reference subjects. Participants who received BCG vaccination also experienced a transient increase in the number of circulating dead autoreactive T cells against insulin. One participant who was randomized to the placebo arm also had similar rises in C-peptide and dead autoreactive T cells after unexpectedly developing an acute infection with the Epstein-Barr virus; it, like the BCG vaccination, is known to induce TNF. Faustman et al. concluded that BCG treatment or EBV infection transiently modified the autoimmunity that underlies advanced type 1 diabetes.

A Phase II trial (preliminary trial of effectiveness) started recruiting in June 2015.[24] The trial's study completion date is July 2023.[25]

Partial bibliography[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Biography - Dr. Denise L. Faustman". Changing the Face of Medicine - Physicians. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved 2008-01-16. 
  2. ^ a b "Faustman Lab Website". Retrieved 2011-06-24. 
  3. ^ Kodama S, Davis M, Faustman DL (2005). "The therapeutic potential of tumor necrosis factor for autoimmune disease: a mechanistically based hypothesis". Cell Mol Life Sci. 62 (16): 1850–62. doi:10.1007/s00018-005-5022-6. PMID 15968469. 
  4. ^ Ryu S, Kodama S, Ryu K, Schoenfeld DA, Faustman DL (2001). "Reversal of established autoimmune diabetes by restoration of endogenous beta cell function". J Clin Invest. 108 (1): 63–72. doi:10.1172/JCI12335. PMC 209340Freely accessible. PMID 11435458. 
  5. ^ Kodama S, Kuhtreiber W, Fujimura S, Dale EA, Faustman DL (2003). "Islet regeneration during the reversal of autoimmune diabetes in NOD mice". Science. 302 (5648): 1223–7. doi:10.1126/science.1088949. PMID 14615542. 
  6. ^ Faustman DL, Tran SD, Kodama S, Lodde BM, Szalayova I, Key S, Toth ZE, Mezey E (2006). "Comment on papers by Chong et al., Nishio et al., and Suri et al. on diabetes reversal in NOD mice". Science. 314 (5803): 1243. doi:10.1126/science.1129811. PMID 17124308. 
  7. ^ a b "BCG vaccine could restore proper immune response in type 1 diabetes". Retrieved 2017-06-12. 
  8. ^ Chong AS, Shen J, Tao J, Yin D, Kuznetsov A, Hara M, Philipson LH (2006). "Reversal of diabetes in non-obese diabetic mice without spleen cell-derived beta cell regeneration". Science. 311 (5768): 1774–5. doi:10.1126/science.1123510. PMID 16556844. 
  9. ^ Suri A, Calderon B, Esparza TJ, Frederick K, Bittner P, Unanue ER (2006). "Immunological reversal of autoimmune diabetes without hematopoietic replacement of beta cells". Science. 311 (5768): 1778–80. doi:10.1126/science.1123500. PMID 16556846. 
  10. ^ Nishio J, Gaglia JL, Turvey SE, Campbell C, Benoist C, Mathis D (2006). "Islet recovery and reversal of murine type 1 diabetes in the absence of any infused spleen cell contribution". Science. 311 (5768): 1775–8. doi:10.1126/science.1124004. PMID 16556845. 
  11. ^ Tran SD, Kodama S, Lodde BM, Szalayova I, Key S, Khalili S, Faustman DL, Mezey E (2007). "Reversal of Sjogren's-like syndrome in non-obese diabetic mice". Ann Rheum Dis. 66 (6): 812–4. doi:10.1136/ard.2006.064030. PMC 1954678Freely accessible. PMID 17179174. 
  12. ^ "BCG Vaccination Appears Promising as a Treatment for People With Existing Type 1 Diabetes, Phase I Trial Results Show". ScienceDaily - Science News. ScienceDaily LLC. Retrieved 2011-06-24. 
  13. ^ Dahlquist G, Gothefors L (1996). "The cumulative incidence of childhood diabetes mellitus in Sweden unaffected by BCG-vaccination". Diabetologia. 38 (7): 500–2. doi:10.1007/BF03035306. PMID 7556994. 
  14. ^ Allen HF, Klingensmith GJ, Jensen P, Simoes E, Hayward A, Chase HP (1999). "Effect of Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccination on new-onset type 1 diabetes. A randomized clinical study". Diabetes Care. 22 (10): 1703–7. doi:10.2337/diacare.22.10.1703. PMID 10526739. 
  15. ^ Huppmann M, Baumgarten A, Ziegler AG, Bonifacio E (2005). "Neonatal Bacille Calmette-Guerin vaccination and type 1 diabetes". Diabetes Care. 28 (5): 1204–6. doi:10.2337/diacare.28.5.1204. PMID 15855590. 
  16. ^ Parent ME, Siemiatycki J, Menzies R, Fritschi L, Colle E (1997). "Bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccination and incidence of IDDM in Montreal, Canada". Diabetes Care. 20 (5): 767–72. doi:10.2337/diacare.20.5.767. PMID 9135940. 
  17. ^ Elliott JF, Marlin KL, Couch RM (1998). "Effect of bacille Calmette-Guérin vaccination on C-peptide secretion in children newly diagnosed with IDDM". Diabetes Care. 21 (10): 1691–3. doi:10.2337/diacare.21.10.1691. PMID 9773732. 
  18. ^ Shehadeh N, Calcinaro F, Bradley BJ, Bruchim I, Vardi P, Lafferty KJ (1994). "Effect of adjuvant therapy on development of diabetes in mouse and man". Lancet. 343 (8899): 706–7. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(94)91583-0. PMID 7907682. 
  19. ^ Karaci M, Aydin M (2012). "The effect of BCG vaccine from protection of type 1 diabetes mellitus". J Contemp Med [Turkey]. 2 (1): 1–8. 
  20. ^ Karaci, Mehmet (March 18, 2014). "The Protective Effect of the BCG Vaccine on the Development of Type 1 Diabetes in Humans". In Faustman, Denise. The Value of BCG and TNF in Autoimmunity. Academic Press. ISBN 9780127999647. 
  21. ^ "Mass. General Hospital, Iacocca Foundation announce completion of Phase I diabetes trial". Press Release. EurekAlert!. Retrieved 2011-06-24. 
  22. ^ Determination of Dosing and Frequency of BCG Administration to Alter T-Lymphocyte Profiles in Type I Diabetics, Last updated: November 4, 2013
  23. ^ Faustman DL, Wang L, Okubo Y, Burger D, Ban L, et al. (August 2012). "Proof-of-concept, randomized, controlled clinical trial of bacillus-Calmette-Guerin for treatment of long-term type 1 diabetes". PLoS ONE. 7 (8): e41756. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0041756. PMC 3414482Freely accessible. PMID 22905105. 
  24. ^ "Repeat BCG Vaccinations for the Treatment of Established Type 1 Diabetes". June 2015. Retrieved 2015-07-30. 
  25. ^

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