Height, weight, genes?

Height, weight, genes?

 UF delivers promise of personalized medicine to heart patients

 By Claire Baralt and John Pastor

UF leaders are now adding genetic information into the mix when prescribing medication to keep heart attacks and stroke at bay. Shown here are program leader Julie Johnson (right) with Dr. R. David Anderson (left).

Personalized medicine — a concept in which an understanding of a patient’s genetic makeup is used to enhance treatment — has arrived at UF&Shands, the University of Florida Academic Health Center.

Under a new standard of care, UF doctors will help ward off heart attacks or strokes after heart procedures by taking a person’s genetic information into account before prescribing medications that prevent
blood clots.

Patients at Shands at UF who undergo a procedure that involves passing a thin tube into the left side of the heart to diagnose or treat heart disease will be routinely screened for biological signals in their blood that give clues about how they might respond to a common anticlotting drug called clopidogrel, also sold
as Plavix.

“In 2010, the Food and Drug Administration changed clopidogrel’s label to warn clinicians that it may not work for high-risk heart patients with certain genetic traits. But there hasn’t been a good way to get genetic information to doctors so they can use it during treatment,” said Julie A. Johnson, Pharm.D., director of the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute’s Personalized Medicine Program and the UF College of Pharmacy’s Center for Pharmacogenomics. “Over the last year, we worked with stakeholders across our health system to tackle that challenge, and we are now able to deliver on the promise of personalized medicine.”

For patients, the screening is no different than a typical blood draw. The difference is that one sample is sent to UF Pathology Laboratories to be tested for the presence of any of seven genetic variations that influence how the body responds to clopidogrel.

Results are typically available within 24 hours and are added to the patient’s electronic medical record. If the results suggest clopidogrel is not the best treatment option, the electronic medical record system alerts the cardiologist and recommends alternate drugs when a prescription is written.

“This helps us prescribe the right medication the first time and absolutely has the potential to reduce complications,” said R. David Anderson, M.D., an associate professor of medicine and director of interventional cardiology and the cardiac catheterization laboratory at Shands at UF.

The new screening procedure aligns with the National Institutes of Health’s vision to use a patient’s genetic information to tailor their health care. The federal government enacted the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act in 2008 to allow people to take advantage of personalized medicine without fear of genetic discrimination.

This initial use of personalized medicine at UF&Shands will help the roughly 1,500 patients per year treated at the cardiac catheterization lab, 40 percent of whom are likely to be prescribed clopidogrel. Over time, UF&Shands will expand the new approach to more patients.

Starting in July, Stanford University will adopt the UF&Shands model. United under an NIH grant, UF and Stanford researchers also collaborated to develop a custom chip to collect and screen DNA samples for genetic variations suspected of influencing how the body responds to medications. UF Pathology Laboratories will use the new gene chip as part of a related research study that will begin in 2012.

“The model we’ve developed can provide a blueprint for other health systems that want to use evidence-based genetic information to improve patient care,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., director of the UF CTSI. “This is a major step toward being able to translate more than a decade of ground-breaking genomic research into better health.”