The field of pharmacogenomics has continued to develop and advance. Many health care providers are now considering genetic testing to help determine which medications are the best for their patients. Pharmacogenomics analyzes a person’s genetic instructions to determine which drugs and drug doses will be the best fit for that person. In the past, most drugs were considered to work the same in every person and have the same effects. We now know that based on a person’s genetic makeup an individual will react differently to certain medications compared to others. The field of pharmacogenomics can help patients save time and money by reducing the need to try multiple medications.
Currently there are a few areas of health where pharmacogenomics is consistently being used to aid health care providers in helping their patients. In oncology, physicians will often perform tumor testing before deciding if a cancer drug will be effective. For example, a breast cancer drug called Herceptin only works on breast cancer that is HER2 positive, meaning the tumor is producing too much of a protein called HER2. In addition, physicians will often only give colon cancer patients Camptosar, a type of chemotherapy regimen, if they have a particular genetic variant.
The study of genetics and medications in the field of psychiatry has helped many patients find medications that work for them. In many mental health disorders, multiple medications have to be tried for a trial period before a patient finds one that is effective. There are now several companies that offer genetic testing to analyze a patient’s genes to determine which medications for mental health disorder will be best for the patient. Medications to treat depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric conditions are commonly tested. These tests analyze genes that determine what the body does to the medication and what the medication does to the body.
Warfarin is a drug commonly prescribed to patients with atrial fibrillation or a history of blood clots. It is an anticoagulant used for the prevention of thromboembolic events. There are two genes known to be involved in outcomes related to warfarin therapy. The CYP2C9 gene is responsible for the metabolism of warfarin, and the VKORC1 gene codes for the warfarin drug target. Genetic testing for these two genes to determine which variants of the gene a patient has will enable physicians to decide dosing and accuracy of the drug.
There is a lot of research underway to use pharmacogenomics in other areas of medicine. The hope is to utilize genetic testing in all areas of medicine to determine the most efficient and accurate drugs for patients. In the field of cancer, pharmacogenomics could potentially save many more lives. In addition, the study of our genes and medications could help us to develop drugs that would better help us.
If you are interested in learning more about genetic testing for medication efficacy, have a family history of mental health disorders and are seeking information about risks, or are interested in speaking with a genetic counselor, please contact AT-GC to schedule an appointment.