By Pat Anson, PNN Editor
Finding effective treatment for fibromyalgia has always been problematic. The Food and Drug Administration has approved three drugs for fibromyalgia, but many patients find pregabalin (Lyrica), duloxetine (Cymbalta) and milnacipran (Savella) ineffective in treating the widespread body pain, fatigue, depression and “brain fog” that are common symptoms of fibromyalgia.
A small pilot study suggests an experimental blood test for fibromyalgia – called FibroGENE — could be used to determine which drug works best for each patient. Researchers at AMPEL BioSolutions and Duke University Medical Center found genetic biomarkers in the blood cells of 18 lupus patients with fibromyalgia-like symptoms. Their findings, published in the journal Lupus Science and Medicine, could lead to patients getting more effective, personalized treatment through genetic profiling.
“The bottom line is that we found the driving pathways for fibromyalgia that can be targeted by drugs that are already on the market,” said Amrie Grammer, PhD, Ampel’s co-founder and President.
“This is a disease management tool. This is meant for patients who know they have fibromyalgia, either on its own or in the context of another disease, such as lupus, and will be a game changer because treatment is often by trial and error. The doctor says, ‘Try this, let me know if it doesn’t work and try that.’ It often takes years, if ever, to get on a medication or medications that relieve the brain fog, the pain, etc.”
Lupus is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks its own tissues and organs, causing pain and inflammation. Like fibromyalgia, lupus is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms mimic those of other pain conditions. Genetic profiling of patients helps reduce the guesswork in treatment.
“The gene expression profiles of patients with fibromyalgia or type 2 lupus with fibromyalgia suggest both available drugs and new drugs that might be tested in patients with extensive pain and fatigue,” says study co-author David Pisetsky, MD, Rheumatologist and Professor of Medicine at Duke.
“Moreover, the gene expression profiles suggest a means to match patients with specific drugs. This opens a novel area of precision therapeutics for each individual patient rather than the trial and error approach currently employed.”
Larger studies are needed to prove the viability of Ampel’s blood test, but the company’s goal is to make FibroGENE commercially available by 2024 or 2025. Ampel is currently looking for fibromyalgia patients to participate in its clinical trials.