Global Alliance for Pharmacogenomics Grows to 18 Projects


May 21, 2010

The international effort called the Global Alliance for Pharmacogenomics just added four new projects, bringing its total to 18. This collaboration between scientists in the U.S. and Japan examines how genes influence individual responses to medicines. Its projects focus on a wide range of drugs, including those that treat asthma, cancer, depression, HIV/AIDS and cardiovascular disorders. The long-term goal of the effort is to help doctors to tailor treatments based on the genetic makeup of each patient.

The strength of the alliance draws on the research expertise of the NIH Pharmacogenetics Research Network (PGRN, /Research/FeaturedPrograms/PGRN/) and the high-throughput, genome-wide technologies of the Center for Genomic Medicine (CGM, at the RIKEN institute in Japan.

Data generated by the 2-year-old alliance will be made available through the dbGaP database ( after it is stripped of personally identifying information and with the consent of study participants.

The new projects, briefly described below, will address important gaps in our understanding of how genetic variation affects treatment for diseases that affect millions of people worldwide.

There are more than 27 million asthmatics in the United States and the cost of treating them has been estimated at $20 billion per year. Half of these funds pay for medicines that only work for 50 percent of patients. Currently, there is no way to predict who will benefit from treatment. This study aims to identify genetic variants that are linked to benefits from these medicines. The results could lead to a test that will help doctors select the best medicines for each patient.

Acute Myelogenous Leukemia
High doses of a chemotherapy drug called busulfan is a standard treatment for people in remission from acute myelogenous leukemia. Because the doses are so large, small differences in how people process the drug can translate into large differences in safety and effectiveness between patients. This project seeks to identify genetic variants that influence how a person is affected by and responds to busulfan, providing information that doctors may use to better tailor therapy to each individual.

Bone Fractures in Women with Breast Cancer
Drugs known as aromatase inhibitors are commonly used to treat women with breast cancer. But the drugs, which lower estrogen levels, increase the risk of osteoporosis and bone fractures. Using data collected from thousands of women, this project seeks to uncover genetic factors that are linked to a higher risk of bone fractures in women taking aromatase inhibitors. The findings will enable doctors to avoid the use of this class of medicines in those at increased risk of fractures in the short term, and to increase our understanding of the genetic basis for a woman’s predisposition to fractures with the goal of developing treatments to prevent them.

Depression is one of the most prevalent illnesses worldwide. The principal medicines used to treat depression are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs. Nearly 50 percent of people do not respond to these medicines. By analyzing data gathered through a large consortium of researchers, this project aims to identify gene variants that influence a person’s response to SSRIs. The findings will help doctors identify people who are most likely to benefit from SSRIs as well as those who are at high risk for side effects or lack of benefit.

More information about the Global Alliance for Pharmacogenomics is available at /Research/FeaturedPrograms/PGRN/GAP/.