“The high presence of microRNA 451 enhances the response to treatment with chemo-radiotherapy and increases the survival of patients with stomach cancer”, explained Dr. Jesús García-Foncillas, chief researcher of the Pharmacogenomics Laboratory at the Applied Medical Research Centre (CIMA) and Director of Oncology at the University Hospital of Navarra. This was one of the results presented at the IV Congress of the Spanish Society for Pharmacogenetics and Pharmacogenomic, recently held at CIMA.
Pharmacogenetics studies the genetic bases determining the response of an individual to treatment, as well as possible toxic reactions; pharmacogenomics analyses the molecular and biological mechanisms involved in a disease in order to develop new medicines. “We know that variations in small molecules (microRNAs) give rise to different responses to the same pharmaceutical drug. In this line, a number of approaches are being made in clinical practice, such as the study of mutations of the K-RAS gene in cancer of the colon or of the EGFR in lung cancer, and which enable directing individualised treatment for each patient”.
The study presented at this scientific meeting analysed the role of microRNA 451 in stomach cancer, “Patients with a high expression of this molecule show greater survival rates, and so could be a biomarker for treatment response”.
The CIMA researchers are also taking part in other trials, such as studies with the 192 and 215 microRNAs, which influence the response to pharmaceutical drugs against cancer of the colon, at the preclinical phase.
Psychiatric and cardiovascular diseases
Besides its application in cancer, pharmacogenetics is demonstrating its efficacy in other disciplines such as psychiatry. So today, more individualised treatment can be determined for psychotic disorders and epilepsy for each patient.
Another field that is growing fast is that involving the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. “One of the great risks of these illnesses is controlling the thrombotic processes involved in cerebrovascular accidents. The study of certain genes, such as ALOX5AP, can direct the most appropriate medication for each patient”, explained Dr. García-Foncillas.
In the opinion of the CIMA researcher, “the convergence of genetic and pharmacological studies has created a way for optimising both the treatment for each patient as well as health resources, given that we will be able to use pharmaceutical drugs in suitable doses, with fewer side effects and with patients that show better therapeutic response”.
Mª Isabel Solana García
Universidad de Navarra