JUN 05, 2019 05:12 PM PDT

Clinical Trials Aim to Improve Therapeutics with Genomic Data

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Scientists now have access to vast amounts of human genetic data. Now the National Institutes of Health (NIH) wants to put that data to use. They are funding clinical trials to evaluate how beneficial and effective genomic medicine is in the management of a variety of conditions including chronic pain, depression and high blood pressure. These trials will be the second phase of the Implementing Genomics in Practice (IGNITE) Network project and will start in 2020. 

High blood pressure is a common chronic condition that can lead to a variety of more severe health conditions, and it makes chronic kidney disease worse. The first trial will assess whether treating these conditions improves when a patient's genetic data is readily available. 

The genes in the human genome are the same from person to person, but there are small changes in the sequences of those genes in individuals, which make us unique. In pharmacogenomic studies, scientists seek to learn how the gene sequences carried by a person impacts their response to drugs. The video above explains pharmacogenomics.

Two mutations in a gene called APOL1 (apolipoprotein L1) are common in certain African populations. Kidney disease is ten times more likely in people who carry the mutations than those who don’t carry them. The researchers want to know if testing for these mutations immediately (instead of three months later) will benefit the patient.

"Patients of African ancestry might experience better management of high blood pressure and improved prevention of kidney disease caused by high blood pressure," said Simona Volpi, program director of IGNITE pragmatic clinical trials. 

A second trial involves two conditions that are challenging to treat - pain and depression. The study will investigate whether pharmacogenomics can inform the selection of a good therapeutic for a patient, who often has to find the best drug through trial and error.

"Treatment of depression and/or pain in patients regardless of race or ethnicity may be more effective and have fewer side effects when using a genomic approach to prescribing drugs for these conditions," noted Volpi.

The IGNITE Network started in spring 2013 with an aim to incorporate genomic information into patient’s electronic health records. Now that clinical trials are beginning, the goal is to bring genomic data into diverse clinical settings. The video below from the NIH features a lengthy talk on efforts to use pharmacogenomics in the clinic.

Sources: AAAS/Eurekalert! via NHGRI

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
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