Pharmacogenomics could replace 'trial-and-error' with science from the human genome

(MEMPHIS, TENN.--May 27, 2004) The future use of a gene-based technology called pharmacogenomics could lower the cost of health care by decreasing the occurrence of adverse drug effects and increasing the probability of successful therapy. These findings are published by investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in the May 27 issue of Nature.

According to the authors, the significant potential for improving health and reducing cost will not be achieved unless three things happen. First, more studies must be undertaken to identify the network of genes that govern most drug responses. Second, systems must be developed to assist physicians and pharmacists in interpreting genetic tests for selecting drug therapy. Finally, legal protections must be put in place to preclude the misuse of genetic information from patients.

The science and technology of pharmacogenomics, which bases the choice of medications and their dosages on the patient's specific genetic makeup, is the basis of "individualized medicine," according to the article's co-authors, William E. Evans, Pharm.D., St. Jude Scientific director, and Mary V. Relling, Pharm.D., chair of St. Jude Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The key to pharmacogenomics is its ability to predict how a patient will respond to medications by identifying individual polymorphisms, or variations, in specific genes that contribute to that response. Pharmacogenomics can also help investigators discover more effective drugs, such as anti-cancer agents.

"Some genes are over-expressed in cancer cells that are either sensitive or resistant to anticancer agents, while other genes are under-expressed, or relatively inactive," Evans said. "Drugs designed to target the genes that are over-expressed in drug-resistant cancer cells would make logical targets for new anti-cancer drugs in an attempt to reverse this resistance."

Pharmacogenomic studies could also save potentially valuable new drugs fro

Contact: Bonnie Cameron
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

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