About Gary Brenner, MD, PhD

Director, Pain Medicine Fellowship, Massachusetts General Hospital
Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School

Gary J. Brenner currently sees patients at the Massachusetts General Hospital Pain Management Center where he is the Director of the Mass General Pain Medicine Fellowship. He is an Associate Professor in Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Brenner runs an NIH-funded lab focused on developing gene therapy for the often painful peripheral nervous system tumors associated with neurofibromatosis. He also conducts neuroscience research on the mechanism of action of opioids in the brain, and has authored more than 45 articles, reviews, chapters, and abstracts on gene therapy strategies for NF tumors, the pathophysiology of pain, basic pain mechanisms and immune function, and clinical approaches to chronic pain. Dr. Brenner currently has several national leadership positions related to pain medicine education/training. He completed his MD and PhD degrees at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, and completed an anesthesiology residency and a pain medicine fellowship at the Massachusetts General Hospital.

Clinical Interests:



Mass General Anesthesia and Pain Medicine
55 Fruit St.
Gray Bigelow Building
Suite 444
Boston, MA 02114
Phone: 617-726-3030

Medical Education

  • MD, University of Rochester, School of Medicine and Dentistry
  • Residency, Massachusetts General Hospital
  • Fellowship, Massachusetts General Hospital

American Board Certifications

  • Pain Medicine, American Board of Internal Medicine

Accepted Insurance Plans

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Research Areas

  • Development animal models and gene therapy for the neurofibromatoses.
  • Investigation of nociceptive circuits in the brain utilizing behavioral testing and functional imaging in the context of optogenetic modulation.

Description of Research   

My laboratory currently focuses efforts on two projects.  The first involves the development of novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of Schwann-cell derived nerve sheath tumors.  In particular, we are utilizing adenovirus associated vectors to deliver caspase-1 to tumor cells.  Delivery of this apoptosis-generating transgene both directly kills tumor cells in which it is expressed and activates anti-tumor host responses.  We are investigating the mechanisms through which our vector kills tumor and are developing the therapeutic strategy for translation into phase 0/1 clinical trials.

The second project utilizes optogenetic modulation of brain circuits to investigate nociceptive processing that occurs in the context of nociceptive sensitization associated with peripheral nerve injury.  This approach may improve the positive predictive value for preclinical modeling of clinical pain.


  • Select Publications:

    • Brenner GJ, Felten SY, Felten DL, Cohen N and Moynihan JA.  Chemical sympathectomy is associated with increased pulmonary metastases.  Journal of Neuroimmunology.  1992;37:191-202.
    • Brenner GJ, Cohen N and Moynihan JA.  Similar immune response to nonlethal infection with Herpes Simplex virus-1 in sensitive (BALB/c) and resistant (C57Bl/6) mice.  Cellular Immunology.  1994;157:510-24.
    • Ji RR, Baba H, Brenner GJ and Woolf CJ. Nociceptive specific activation of ERK in spinal neurons contributes to pain hypersensitivity.  Nature Neuroscience. 1999;2:1114-9.
    • Prabhakar S, Brenner GJ, Tannous BA, Sena-Esteves M and Breakefield XO.  Imaging and therapy of experimental schwannomas using HSV amplicon vector encoding apoptotic protein under control of a Schwann cell promoter.  Cancer Gene Therapy.  2010;17(4):266-74.
    • Saydam O, Ozdener GB, Senol O, Mizrak A, Prabhakar  P, Stemmer-Rachamimov AO, Breakefield XO and Brenner GJ.  A novel imaging-compatible sciatic nerve schwannoma model.  Journal of Neuroscience Methods. 2011:195(1)75-77.
    • Brenner GJ, Nemark JL and Raemer D. A Curriculum and Cases for Pain Medicine Crisis Resource Management Education.  Anesthesia and Analgesia. In press.
    • Prabhakar S, Taherian M, Gianni D, Conlon TJ, Fulci J, Brockmann J, Stemmer-Rachamimov A, Sena-Esteves M,  Breakefield XO and Brenner GJ. Regression of Schwannomas induced by AAV-Mediated Delivery of Caspase-1. Human Gene Therapy. In press.


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