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Pharmacogenomics- A New Era in Precision Health

By April 26, 2018No Comments

Genomics is driving a paradigm shift from a disease-oriented health-care system to one that is more precise, personalized, predictive, preventative and cost effective.

Advancements in technology are helping make genomics more affordable and accessible than ever before. Likewise, societal attitudes toward genomics in clinical care are shifting. We are no longer asking ‘if’ genomics should be integrated with clinical care. Instead we are asking ‘when’ and ‘how’ we can use genomics to benefit as many people as possible.

With a vision to advance the use and application of genomics in clinical practice, Genome BC has invested almost $370 million in over 160 research projects. Genomics research is already saving lives and improving health outcomes and disease management for patients touched by cancer, heart disease, autism, epilepsy, rare diseases and other debilitating diseases. As genomics research moves from the bench to the bedside, clinical applications of genomics will affect many areas of medicine over the next 10-20 years, improving disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, as well as informing our approaches to wellness, nutrition, and public health.

Genome BC has had a long-standing interest in, and support for, a particular aspect of precision health called pharmacogenomics. Since 2004 we have invested in a number of projects analyzing the unintended side effects of medication, known as adverse drug reactions (ADRs). The discipline of pharmacogenomics, identifying gene variants that predispose people to serious side effects of medications or that alter the way your body will respond to, or metabolize, certain drugs, is being applied to improve the safety and efficacy of many therapeutics and treatments. We are funding teams across different levels of research in this critical field: in the hospital alongside clinicians, in the pharmacy and with primary care physicians.

At the hospital level Dr. Bruce Carleton and his team are working to prevent ADRs by developing laboratory tests to predict the likelihood of a childhood cancer patient developing an ADR and tools to incorporate these tests into clinical practice. At the pharmacy level another group, led by Dr. Corey Nislow and the BC Pharmacy Association, has developed a community pharmacist-based approach to pharmacogenomic testing wherein a patient’s saliva is tested for genes that will predict adverse reactions to commonly prescribed drugs. Finally, at the family physician level Dr. Martin Dawes and his multi-disciplinary team of doctors, pharmacists, and epidemiologists have developed TreatGx, a unique medication decision support system. Using the highest levels of evidence, TreatGX identifies personalized medication options for multiple common conditions. The options are presented to the doctor in an easy-to-read format with helpful information such as dosing instructions, potential adverse reactions, and medication cost comparisons.

Each of these research teams are bringing new understanding to the table, as well as integrating their work for maximum benefit to patients.