• By Dennis Douda

From fighting cancer to opioid addiction: Genetics matter with medications

October 9, 2017

illustration of gene sequence
A gathering of experts is meeting at Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minn Oct 9-10 to talk about why a medication that works for one person may not for another. It's all in the genes. Individualizing Medicine 2017: Advancing Care Through Genomics is a two day conference hosted by the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine.

Watch: How, from fighting cancer to opioid addiction, genes matter with medications. 

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video and audio sound bites from Dr. Curry are available in the downloads.

Topics range from genetic testing's value in diagnosing and treating a host of diseases, including cancer, cardiovascular and neurologic conditions, to the growing practice of precisely matching specific medications to a body's ability to process them correctly to get their full benefit. "This is really a hot topic right now," says Dr. Timothy Curry, a Mayo Clinic anesthesiologist and researcher, who will speak at the conference.

The field of studying and applying the knowledge of genetic variations to the use of pharmaceutical drugs is known as pharmacogenomics. Dr. Curry says it could benefit virtually everyone. "What we know from early studies here at Mayo Clinic is that, if you looked at just five genes, 99 percent of people would have something in one of those genes that would affect their medications."

Understanding these individual genetic differences among patients may even be beneficial in preventing and treating opioid addiction – a problem that has been declared a national crisis.

"A lot of times, a patient's first exposure to a pain medicine like this is in [association with surgery.],"Dr. Curry explains. "As an anesthesiologist, that concerns me because I'm the one that's prescribing those medications and giving them to them. So anything we can do to help minimize the exposure to opioids in general, but particularly during the perioperative period, may be helpful."

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