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Biomarker Predicts Heart Attack Risk Based on Response to Aspirin Therapy

Aspirin has been widely used for more than 50 years as a common, inexpensive blood thinner for patients with heart disease and stroke, but doctors have little understanding of how it works and why some people benefit and others don’t.

Now researchers at Duke Medicine have solved some of the mysteries related to the use of this century-old drug, and developed a blood-based test of gene activity that has been shown to accurately identify who will respond to the therapy.

The new gene expression profile not only measures the effectiveness of aspirin, but also serves as a strong predictor of patients who are at risk for heart attack, according to a study appearing July 3, 2013, in the online edition of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“We recognized the concept of aspirin resistance among a population of patients who have cardiac events or stroke,” said senior author Geoffrey S. Ginsburg, M.D., PhD, director of genomic medicine at Duke’s Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy and executive director of the Center for Personalized Medicine. “We give the same dose to all patients, but maybe some patients need a larger dose of aspirin, or maybe they need to try a different therapy entirely. We need better tools to monitor patients and adjust their care accordingly, and the findings from our study move us in that direction.”

The Duke researchers enlisted three groups of participants – two of healthy volunteers and one comprised of patients with heart disease seen in outpatient cardiology practices.

The healthy volunteers were given a dosage of 325 mg of aspirin daily for up to a month; the heart disease patients had been prescribed a low dose of aspirin as part of their treatment. Blood was then analyzed for the impact of aspirin on RNA expression and the function of platelets, which are the blood cells involved in clotting.

The RNA microarray profiling after aspirin administration revealed a set of 60 co-expressed genes that the researchers call the “aspirin response signature,” which consistently correlated with an insufficient platelet response to aspirin therapy among the healthy subjects as well as the heart disease patients.

The researchers also examined the aspirin response signature in another group of patients who had undergone cardiac catheterizations. They found the signature was also effective in identifying those patients who eventually suffered a heart attack or died.

“The aspirin response signature can determine who is at risk for heart attack and death,” said Deepak Voora, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at Duke and lead author of the study. “There is something about the biology of platelets that determines how well we respond to aspirin and we can now capture that with a genomic signature in blood.”

Ginsburg said the research is progressing to recreate the findings in other populations, and to develop a standardized testing system that could one day move the analysis into daily practice.

“Nearly 60 million people take aspirin regularly to reduce their chances of heart attack and death, but it doesn’t work for everyone,” said Rochelle Long, Ph.D., of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of General Medical Sciences, which partly supported the study. “By monitoring gene activity patterns these investigators uncovered a ‘signature’ linked to inadequate responsiveness. This work may eventually lead to a simple blood test to identify those who do not benefit from aspirin, enabling them to seek other therapeutic options.”

In addition to Ginsburg and Voora, study authors include Derek Cyr; Joseph Lucas; Jen-Tsan Chi; Jennifer Dungan; Timothy A. McCaffrey; Richard Katz; L. Kristin Newby; William E. Kraus; Richard C. Becker; and Thomas L. Ortel.

The study received funding from the Duke Institute for Genome Sciences & Policy; the National Institutes of Health (T32HL007101 to DV); the National Center for Research Resources (UL1RR024128); the National Institutes of General Medical Sciences (RC1GM091083); the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (5U01DD000014); and the David H. Murdock Research Institute.

Study: Aspirin Exposure Reveals Novel Genes Associated with Platelet Function and Cardiovascular Events

Source: Duke Medicine

University of Maryland Medical Center Launches Genetic-testing Program for Cardiac Stent Patients

Patients with coronary artery disease who undergo treatment at the University of Maryland Medical Center now can receive long-term therapy based on information found in their genes. As part of a new personalized medicine initiative, the medical center is offering genetic testing to help doctors determine which medication a patient should take after a stenting procedure in order to prevent blood clots that could lead to serious – and potentially fatal – heart attacks and strokes.

Patients with suspected heart disease undergo coronary catheterization to identify blocked or narrow arteries. Tiny tubes, or stents, are often placed in the arteries to keep them open, and, after surgery, patients typically take antiplatelet drugs, such as clopidogrel (Plavix), to prevent platelets – blood cells produced in bone marrow – from sticking together and forming clots.

Now, patients who undergo coronary catheterization at UMMC and the Baltimore VA Medical Center, both of which are affiliated with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, can elect to be tested for variations in a gene called CYP2C19. Up to one-fourth of the U.S. population carries at least one abnormal copy of the CYP2C19 gene, and research has shown that as a result, these individuals do not metabolize the standard anti-clotting medication clopidogrel effectively.

“There is strong clinical data to support pharmacogenetic testing in regard to antiplatelet therapy,” says Alan R. Shuldiner, M.D., the John L. Whitehurst Endowed Professor of Medicine, associate dean for personalized medicine and director of the Program in Personalized and Genomic Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “It’s time to incorporate genetics into the complex medical decisions that we make on behalf of our patients.”

In 2009, Dr. Shuldiner led a University of Maryland study, published in JAMA, which showed that patients with a CYP2C19 gene variation exhibited reduced clinical benefit from taking clopidogrel. Based on growing clinical evidence reported in Dr. Shuldiner’s study and others, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the reduced efficacy of clopidogrel in people with the genetic variation.

“Pharmacogenetic testing enables us to tailor drug treatments to individual patients based on their unique genetic makeup, or genotype,” says Dr. Shuldiner, an endocrinologist and geneticist. “With genotype-directed therapy, we have the ability to change the ‘one size fits all’ approach to prescribing medication and ultimately improve the quality of care we provide to our patients. Patients want personalized and individualized medicine. They seek it out.”

The test is performed by analyzing the patient’s DNA, isolated from a blood sample, in a new state-of-the-art translational genomics laboratory at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The tests are being conducted as part of a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study to determine the best way to implement genetic-testing programs. Tests are free, and because of the partnership between UMMC and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, results are available within a few hours.

Dr. Shuldiner explains that the ability to provide test results within hours is crucial because cardiac stent patients are at risk for developing blood clots and other complications soon after they have the procedure. “This rapid turnaround time sets our program apart from other programs and commercial laboratories, where results may not be available for up to two weeks,” he adds.

Pharmacogenomics – how genes affect a person’s response to drugs – is a burgeoning area of research, but only a small number of hospitals in the United States have programs to offer routine genetic testing as part of their clinical practice. This new approach to patient care is part of the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s pursuit of more individualized, or personalized, medical treatment.

E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says, “Personalized medicine is the future of health care, and we want to be at the forefront of not only advancing the science of genomics, but also using that knowledge in a clinical setting for the benefit of patients. Our Program in Personalized and Genomic Medicine, under Dr. Shuldiner’s direction, is helping to lead the way with this new genetic-testing initiative, created in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and the Baltimore VA Medical Center.”

The University of Maryland launched its initiative in conjunction with a multi-center implementation study, the Translational Pharmacogenetics Project, funded by the NIH Pharmacogenomics Research Network (U01HL105198). Five other major hospitals across the United States are taking part in the study to evaluate the process for building such pharmacogenetic-testing programs.

“We plan to share lessons learned at our respective sites and to develop best practices for implementation of pharmacogenetics in everyday clinical practice. We are putting together a toolbox that will be useful to other institutions,” says Dr. Shuldiner, who is leading the multi-center study. Cardiologists Mark R.Vesely, M.D., and Shawn W. Robinson, M.D., assistant professors of medicine at the School of Medicine who care for patients at UMMC and the Baltimore VA Medical Center, are co-investigators.

It is expected that the test for the CYP2C19 gene variation will become standard care for all patients who receive stents at both medical centers once the initial research phase is completed.

Cardiologists receive guidelines on how to interpret the test results and recommendations for choosing medications. It is up to them to determine the most appropriate treatment for their patients, who might have other medical conditions that need to be considered. The test results also are entered in the electronic medical record, where they can be accessed by other physicians.

“Knowing a patient’s genotype is helping us to make more informed decisions for our patients,” Dr. Vesely says. “A combination of aspirin and clopidogrel is the routine choice of medications many physicians will prescribe for their stent patients. But patients who are likely to have a poor or moderate response may be better protected by other medications or possibly a higher dose of clopidogrel. It comes down to what is best for each patient.”

According to Dr. Vesely, limitations for the alternative medications include their association with higher bleeding rates. “The cost of the medications could also be a factor if patients cannot afford alternative medications or will not take them as prescribed.” Newer anti-clotting medications, such as prasugrel (Effient) and ticagrelor (Brilinta), are more expensive than Plavix, which has been available as a generic since May 2012.

Dr. Robinson notes that the response from patients to genetic testing has been positive. “Patients have been very receptive to discovering this new information about themselves that can possibly have a positive impact on their future cardiovascular health,” he says.

Dr. Shuldiner anticipates that the initiative will be expanded to include tests for other genes that may affect how patients respond to medications such as warfarin, an anticoagulant; simvastatin, a cholesterol-lowering drug; and codeine, a pain reliever. “Providing tailored therapy will better meet the health needs of patients and reduce the harmful side effects that can occur when a person is taking the wrong medication,” he says.

The University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Personalized and Genomic Medicine Program was established in April 2011 to help facilitate the pace of discovery in personalized and genomic medicine; to accelerate the translation of these new discoveries to improve patient care; and to enhance the training and education of future generations of physicians and scientists. The program is funded jointly by the School of Medicine and University of Maryland Medical Center.

Source: University of Maryland Medical Center

University of Maryland Medical Center Launches Genetic-Testing Program For Cardiac Stent Patients

Patients with coronary artery disease who undergo treatment at the University of Maryland Medical Center now can receive long-term therapy based on information found in their genes. As part of a new personalized medicine initiative, the medical center is offering genetic testing to help doctors determine which medication a patient should take after a stenting procedure in order to prevent blood clots that could lead to serious – and potentially fatal – heart attacks and strokes.

Patients with suspected heart disease undergo coronary catheterization to identify blocked or narrow arteries. Tiny tubes, or stents, are often placed in the arteries to keep them open, and, after surgery, patients typically take antiplatelet drugs, such as clopidogrel (Plavix), to prevent platelets – blood cells produced in bone marrow – from sticking together and forming clots.

Now, patients who undergo coronary catheterization at UMMC and the Baltimore VA Medical Center, both of which are affiliated with the University of Maryland School of Medicine, can elect to be tested for variations in a gene called CYP2C19. Up to one-fourth of the U.S. population carries at least one abnormal copy of the CYP2C19 gene, and research has shown that as a result, these individuals do not metabolize the standard anti-clotting medication clopidogrel effectively.

“There is strong clinical data to support pharmacogenetic testing in regard to antiplatelet therapy,” says Alan R. Shuldiner , M.D., the John L. Whitehurst Endowed Professor of Medicine, associate dean for personalized medicine and director of the Program in Personalized and Genomic Medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “It’s time to incorporate genetics into the complex medical decisions that we make on behalf of our patients.”

In 2009, Dr. Shuldiner led a University of Maryland study, published in JAMA, which showed that patients with a CYP2C19 gene variation exhibited reduced clinical benefit from taking clopidogrel. Based on growing clinical evidence reported in Dr. Shuldiner’s study and others, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the reduced efficacy of clopidogrel in people with the genetic variation.

“Pharmacogenetic testing enables us to tailor drug treatments to individual patients based on their unique genetic makeup, or genotype,” says Dr. Shuldiner, an endocrinologist and geneticist. “With genotype-directed therapy, we have the ability to change the ‘one size fits all’ approach to prescribing medication and ultimately improve the quality of care we provide to our patients. Patients want personalized and individualized medicine. They seek it out.”

The test is performed by analyzing the patient’s DNA, isolated from a blood sample, in a new state-of-the-art translational genomics laboratory at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The tests are being conducted as part of a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study to determine the best way to implement genetic-testing programs. Tests are free, and because of the partnership between UMMC and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, results are available within a few hours.

Dr. Shuldiner explains that the ability to provide test results within hours is crucial because cardiac stent patients are at risk for developing blood clots and other complications soon after they have the procedure. “This rapid turnaround time sets our program apart from other programs and commercial laboratories, where results may not be available for up to two weeks,” he adds.
Pharmacogenomics – how genes affect a person’s response to drugs – is a burgeoning area of research, but only a small number of hospitals in the United States have programs to offer routine genetic testing as part of their clinical practice. This new approach to patient care is part of the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s pursuit of more individualized, or personalized, medical treatment.

E. Albert Reece , M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president for medical affairs at the University of Maryland and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, says, “Personalized medicine is the future of health care, and we want to be at the forefront of not only advancing the science of genomics, but also using that knowledge in a clinical setting for the benefit of patients. Our Program in Personalized and Genomic Medicine, under Dr. Shuldiner’s direction, is helping to lead the way with this new genetic-testing initiative, created in partnership with the University of Maryland Medical Center and the Baltimore VA Medical Center.”

The University of Maryland launched its initiative in conjunction with a multi-center implementation study, the Translational Pharmacogenetics Project, funded by the NIH Pharmacogenomics Research Network (U01HL105198). Five other major hospitals across the United States are taking part in the study to evaluate the process for building such pharmacogenetic-testing programs.

“We plan to share lessons learned at our respective sites and to develop best practices for implementation of pharmacogenetics in everyday clinical practice. We are putting together a toolbox that will be useful to other institutions,” says Dr. Shuldiner, who is leading the multi-center study. Cardiologists Mark R.Vesely , M.D., and Shawn W. Robinson , M.D., assistant professors of medicine at the School of Medicine who care for patients at UMMC and the Baltimore VA Medical Center, are co-investigators.

It is expected that the test for the CYP2C19 gene variation will become standard care for all patients who receive stents at both medical centers once the initial research phase is completed.
Cardiologists receive guidelines on how to interpret the test results and recommendations for choosing medications. It is up to them to determine the most appropriate treatment for their patients, who might have other medical conditions that need to be considered. The test results also are entered in the electronic medical record, where they can be accessed by other physicians.

“Knowing a patient’s genotype is helping us to make more informed decisions for our patients,” Dr. Vesely says. “A combination of aspirin and clopidogrel is the routine choice of medications many physicians will prescribe for their stent patients. But patients who are likely to have a poor or moderate response may be better protected by other medications or possibly a higher dose of clopidogrel. It comes down to what is best for each patient.”

According to Dr. Vesely, limitations for the alternative medications include their association with higher bleeding rates. “The cost of the medications could also be a factor if patients cannot afford alternative medications or will not take them as prescribed.” Newer anti-clotting medications, such as prasugrel (Effient) and ticagrelor (Brilinta), are more expensive than Plavix, which has been available as a generic since May 2012.

Dr. Robinson notes that the response from patients to genetic testing has been positive. “Patients have been very receptive to discovering this new information about themselves that can possibly have a positive impact on their future cardiovascular health,” he says.

Dr. Shuldiner anticipates that the initiative will be expanded to include tests for other genes that may affect how patients respond to medications such as warfarin, an anticoagulant; simvastatin, a cholesterol-lowering drug; and codeine, a pain reliever. “Providing tailored therapy will better meet the health needs of patients and reduce the harmful side effects that can occur when a person is taking the wrong medication,” he says.

The University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Personalized and Genomic Medicine Program was established in April 2011 to help facilitate the pace of discovery in personalized and genomic medicine; to accelerate the translation of these new discoveries to improve patient care; and to enhance the training and education of future generations of physicians and scientists. The program is funded jointly by the School of Medicine and University of Maryland Medical Center.

To watch a video of Dr. Shuldiner discussing the new initiative, go to http://www.umm.edu/media/channel/heart-cardiovascular.htm.

Source: PR Newswire

Advances in Molecular Testing Offer New Hope for Lung Cancer Patients

The emergence of molecular diagnostic testing in lung cancer offers new hope for patients battling the number one cancer killer in the United States and abroad. Now, for the first time after a decade of biomarker testing in lung cancer, a uniform approach for testing for the EGFR mutation and ALK rearrangement along with the availability of targeted therapies offer lung cancer patients the chance for improved quality of life and more time with their loved ones.

The College of American Pathologists (CAP), the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), and the Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) have developed an evidence-based guideline, “Molecular Testing Guideline for the Selection of Lung Cancer Patients for EGFR and ALK Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors,” which establishes recommendations for EGFR and ALK testing, helping to guide targeted therapies. The guideline was released on April 3, 2013, in Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine (APLM), Journal of Thoracic Oncology, and The Journal of Molecular Diagnostics.

“The key recommendation of the guideline, and perhaps most important to lung cancer patients, is that all patients with advanced lung adenocarcinoma should be tested for EGFR and ALK abnormalities, that would qualify them for tyrosine kinase inhibitor therapy, regardless of their clinical variables, such as smoking history, gender, or ethnicity,” said Marc Ladanyi, MD, attending pathologist in the Molecular Diagnostics Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and IASLC member.

Similar to the testing done in breast cancer, matching a cancer patient’s molecular profile with the appropriate targeted therapy provides individualized treatment options. The guideline answers important clinical questions, including:

  • When should testing be performed?
  • How should testing be performed?
  • Should other genes be routinely tested in lung cancer?
  • How should molecular testing of lung cancer be implemented?

“In the U.S. up to 20 percent of patients with lung adenocarcinoma, the most common type of lung cancer, will test positive for one of the two biomarkers,” said Philip T. Cagle, MD, FCAP, medical director of Pulmonary Pathology in the Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, APLM editor, and CAP member. “It is critical to identify these patients because they stand to benefit more from new targeted drugs than from conventional chemotherapy, and with fewer side effects.”

For lung cancer survivor Richard Heimler, molecular diagnostic testing has meant five additional years with his family, including his daughter and son. After his initial diagnosis in 2004, Heimler had surgery to remove cancer tumors in his lungs and brain. When multiple tumors returned in 2008, Heimler participated in a clinical trial to determine if he was a candidate for targeted therapies.

“After testing positive for the abnormal ALK gene, I began taking a targeted drug in the form of a pill,” said Heimler. “It was wonderful to not experience the debilitating side effects that I had with chemotherapy. This new world of science has given me hope that I will have more time to create memories with my children and watch them grow up.”

In an era of precision medicine, the guideline provides recommendations for pathologists, oncologists, and other cancer health professionals on the current state-of-the-art recommendations for the molecular testing of lung cancer.

“The three organizations came together to address the variance in practice around the world about how this testing should performed,” said Neal I. Lindeman, MD, director of Molecular Diagnostics at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and associate professor of Pathology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, and AMP member. “Pathologists who specialize in molecular diagnostics and lung cancer collaborated to create the guideline to minimize variation and provide greater precision in the care of patients.”

The CAP Pathology & Laboratory Quality Center, (the Center,) a forum for developing evidence-based guidelines and consensus recommendations, provided the process for creating the guideline. Expert panels made up of renowned worldwide leaders in the field collaborated to develop the recommendations.

“The guideline is an important step in making sure that patients benefit from the new molecular understanding of lung cancer,” said Dr. Ladanyi. “As new studies lead to further evidence-based recommendations, we hope to develop additional guidelines for other biomarkers related to this disease.”

In conjunction with the publishing of the guideline, CAP, IASLC, and AMP have developed clinical tools and resources for pathologists and oncologists that summarize the findings and recommendations. In addition, the organizations have developed a patient guide for further understanding, including questions for patients to ask their physicians. A series of videos featuring three of the guideline authors and a lung cancer survivor can be found on the CAP, IASLC, and AMP YouTube Channels.

Source: EurekAlert!

Mayo Clinic and SV Bio Enter Strategic Relationship on Genome Diagnostics and Interpretation

Mayo Clinic and Silicon Valley Biosystems (SV Bio) recently announced a strategic collaboration for whole genome diagnostics and interpretation at the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine and Mayo Medical Laboratories. This strategic collaboration unites SV Bio’s proprietary genome interpretation solution with Mayo Clinic’s growing genome reference library and its commitment to individualized medicine, and will increase accessibility and clinical utility of next-generation sequencing for patients. SV Bio will provide clinical genome interpretation services and clinical decision support interfaces to Mayo Clinic, and Mayo’s Center for Individualized Medicine will contribute clinical and laboratory expertise and support. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed.