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Faculty | 4/30/2024

It’s in Our Genes: Possibilities with Precision Medicine

By Jennifer Persons

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In the 12th episode of the MCPHS Bicentennial Podcast, The Secret to Living to 200, Dr. Roseann Donnelly discusses the emerging field of pharmacogenomics and how it is used to make personalized healthcare decisions.

About five years ago, Roseann Donnelly, PharmD, FCCP, BCPS, started one of the first pharmacogenomics clinics in the country at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. There, she works with a physician and a genetic counselor to perform genetic testing to understand which medications will work best for the patient.

Pharmacogenomics is one branch of precision medicine. Broadly, precision medicine tailors healthcare to individuals based on their personal circumstances. Every patient Dr. Donnelly has seen in her clinic has at least one result showing something in their genetics that could affect their response to a medication.

In this episode, Dr. Donnelly explains how she uses pharmacogenomics and why more healthcare providers should practice precision medicine.

Listen to Episode 12 and every episode of The Secret to Living to 200 on our Bicentennial website or anywhere you get your podcasts.

Three Things to Know About Pharmacogenomics:

1. Pharmacogenomics is the study of how our genes influence drug response.

In simple terms, pharmacogenomics is where pharmacology and genomics intersect. The results of pharmacogenomic testing can help patients understand why they may have had adverse reactions to medications in the past and which medications will work best for them in the future.

2. Pharmacogenomic testing results are relevant forever.

Unlike most testing patients undergo, which is relevant for a short time, pharmacogenomic testing results are relevant throughout a patient’s lifetime. At Brigham and Women’s, Dr. Donnelly’s team does a broad panel of genes to inform past medication issues or the best way to address health conditions that arise later.

3. The federal government is conducting a massive precision medicine study, including genetic information.

The National Institutes of Health launched the All of Us Research Program to create the most diverse database of health information in U.S. history. It includes one million people and collects information about their biology, lifestyle, environment, and more. Researchers will be able to use this database to understand how these factors, including genetic information, influence health and make decisions to treat and prevent diseases.