How Genes Can Tailor A Patient's Drug Regimen

One of the most important results of the human genome sequencing project will be the ability to identify specific genetic variations that indicate whether a particular person will respond to a particular drug. With this knowledge, doctors will be able to personalize a patient's treatment regimen.

Now, in a report in the Sept. 12 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Genaissance Pharmaceuticals Inc. describes a key step toward tailoring treatments for asthma. The scientists monitored the lung function of 121 asthmatics before and after taking the drug albuterol. They correlated this information with actual sequence variations in the gene that albuterol is designed to block. In all, the researchers identified 13 sequence differences, or single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), that could be combined in 8,192 different ways. Of these, 12 combinations were deemed medically relevant. The upshot: Doctors could determine that one-third of the patients would not be appropriate candidates for treatment with albuterol.

Genaissance CEO Gualberto Ruano says the company is expanding its asthma trial to look at variations in additional asthma-causing genes. It will also start looking at heart disease, diabetes, and schizophrenia.

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