Personalized Medicine: when will it come to psychiatry?

August 23rd, 2010 by gelenberg Leave a reply »

I recently wrote a piece on personalized medicine, which appears in the September issue of BTP. I thought of it following a meeting with pharmacology faculty members from Penn State Hershey’s cancer center.

As I mention in the newsletter, personalized medicine is gradually becoming a reality in cancer treatment, as genetic understanding points the way to specific diagnoses and tailored treatments. Now scientists are extending understanding slowly to brain diseases and psychiatric therapies.

My colleagues are working with in vitro preparations to identify drug-metabolizing enzymes and the genetic variants that control them. Based on new research, we hope to figure out which patients may be at greater risk of specific medication toxicities, and conversely, who may take our drugs with relative impunity. Soon, I hope, this new knowledge will affect the treatment of major psychiatric diagnoses.

Much research remains to be done—in laboratories, hospitals, and clinics—before these new approaches will be ready for “prime time.” But I anticipate that this “brave new world” will soon be upon us.

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