Pharmacogenomics is the study of how genes affect a person’s response to drugs. This relatively new field combines pharmacology (the science of drugs) and genomics (the study of genes and their functions) to develop effective, safe medications and doses that will be tailored to a person’s genetic makeup.
Many drugs that are currently available are “one size fits all,” but they don’t work the same way for everyone. It can be difficult to predict who will benefit from a medication, who will not respond at all, and who will experience negative side effects (called adverse drug reactions). To date, medicine is being prescribed based on the best information available at the time. In many cases, the optimal treatment is arrived at only after a lengthy ‘trial-and-error’ period where the patient has to repeatedly return to the doctor for dose adjustments or alternative treatments. The unfortunate and unwanted side effects of adverse drug reactions are a significant cause of hospitalizations and deaths around the world (4th leading cause of death in North America). With the knowledge gained from the Human Genome Project, researchers are learning how inherited differences in genes affect the body’s response to medications. At PHIX, we use analyze these genetic differences and the results are used to predict whether a medication will be effective for a particular person and to help prevent adverse drug reactions. While various factors play into the effects of medication (e.g. gender, age, weight, diet, interactions with other drugs, etc), genetic factors account for up to 95% of drug-response variability and susceptibility to adverse drug reactions. With genomic diagnostics physicians can eliminate the guesswork and provide the most appropriate drug and dosage for each patient resulting in healthier outcomes sooner and increased patient satisfaction. In cancer, genomic diagnostics can also match each patient’s unique profile to known targeted therapies, immunotherapies and clinical trials, and offer decision support tools and technology solutions to help streamline patient care.