The Changing Face of Treatment

Medicine and healthcare are evolving on a daily basis and one of the primary reasons is the field of genetics. As genetic research continues to unfold the mysteries of gene locations, identifications, gene actions and individual pre-dispositions to disease, treatment will become more tailored and individualized for the patient. We may indeed approach a period of what the media terms “personalized medicine”.

An individual’s genetic make-up is an essential factor in determining how one responds to drug therapy. It is often difficult to determine who will benefit from a specific drug and who will suffer adverse effects. The term pharmacogenetics is the science behind personalized medicine. It is the study of the variations in response to pharmaceutical agents as related to genetic differences among individuals.

Genes play an essential role in drug response because they direct drug-metabolizing enzymes in the body. A researcher at the University of California is noted to say, “genetic variability in drug metabolizing enzymes is…an important contributor to the incidence of adverse drug reactions”. Individual variations may cause one person to quickly metabolize a drug while another may have an unusually slow breakdown of the drug. Understanding the identities and mechanisms of genetic variations in drug response may lead to innovative therapies and an increased understanding into disease prevention.

The diagnosis and treatment of disease based on knowledge and advances in molecular genetics, may one day allow physicians to more accurately predict who is likely to respond to a specific treatment, who will react adversely and who will receive little or no benefit from the treatment. It is the hope of genetic medical research to yield information that will provide effective personalized treatment for human disease.