The National Institute of General Medical Sciences and the National Cancer Institute have awarded more than $11 million over four years to a team of researchers, based at the University of Chicago Medical Center, to investigate how a person's genes influence his or her response to anti-cancer drugs. Understanding variation in the genes that control drug metabolism and toxicity will improve dosing, increase the benefits of cancer chemotherapy and reduce side effects.
The Pharmacogenetics of Anticancer Agents Research (PAAR) Group includes investigators from the University of Chicago, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, the Tulane/VA Environmental Astrobiology Center in New Orleans, and the University of Pittsburgh. It is chaired by medical oncologist Mark Ratain, M.D., professor of medicine and chairman of the committee on clinical pharmacology at the University of Chicago. The vice-chair is molecular and clinical pharmacologist Mary Relling, Pharm.D., of St. Jude.
"Precise dosing is extremely important for cancer chemotherapy because many of these drugs are most effective at the highest possible dose yet they are also quite toxic," said Ratain. "But finding the right dose is difficult because patients vary radically and unpredictably in the ways they respond to these drugs. Some patients can have life-threatening side effects at a dose that may have little toxicity for someone else the same size and weight."
"Our goal is to determine how an individual's genetic makeup controls the ways he or she responds to these drugs -- how the medications are absorbed, distributed in the body, broken down and eliminated -- and to use that knowledge to determine the best possible dose for each patient."