Archive for the ‘Hershey Medical Center’ category

Personalize This

January 17th, 2013

The future of psychiatry, and indeed all of medicine, will emerge as we unravel the double helix of the genetic code, the proteins DNA commands, and the epigenetic factors that allow our environment to influence genetic expression. Today, I caught a brief glimpse of that future.

I just attended the ceremonial opening of the Penn State Hershey Institute for Personalized Medicine, one of a handful of high technology centers that will pave the way to a new era in health care. This multimillion dollar facility was enabled by federal, state, and private funds, and the inaugural event was attended by a U.S. senator and many United States, Pennsylvania, and university dignitaries. The Institute consists of laboratories that can quickly and relatively inexpensively map individual genomes, a tissue repository for samples from thousands of patients, and an information technology hub.

When I was a medical student in the 1960s, virtually all children with leukemia died. Today, almost all survive. The difference has been discoveries about the mysteries of individual cancers and how to target treatments to their unique signatures. Not only has survival increased, but when cancer treatments can be personalized, doctors can apply less toxic medicines than the systemic poisons we have used for decades.

I am committing significant discretionary funds from my department to leverage our new center’s technology to achieve breakthroughs in psychiatry. Instead of blasting every cell in the body with increased levels of serotonin, someday we should be able to target interventions to distinct pathophysiology underlying diseases of impulse, mood, and thought. As in other medical specialties, we will bank tissue samples from psychiatric patients, establish diagnoses, track symptoms systematically over time, record responses to treatments, and use computer programs to link biology to pathology and ultimately to cure. It is an exciting time.

-Alan J. Gelenberg, M.D.
Editor, Biological Therapies in Psychiatry
Shively/Tan Professor and Chair, Psychiatry, Penn State University
Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry

Personalized Medicine: when will it come to psychiatry?

August 23rd, 2010

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.