Genomic data could help doctors know whether to prescribe statins

Oct. 8, 2014

Genomic data may predict whether statins will benefit a patient, according to an article in the open access journal Genome Biology. The study looked at data from 372 participants in an American clinical trial for the statin Simvastatin and found that certain genetic signatures were more common in patients whose cholesterol was effectively lowered by the treatment, while others were associated with patients who hadn't responded as well. It was possible to predict how 15% of the patients would respond to statins based on genomic data alone.

Statins, which are used to try to lower patients' levels of cholesterol, reduce rates of heart disease in many patients. Clinicians have debated whether they should be prescribed widely, however, because they have significant side effects. Being able to predict which patients will respond to the drugs could help clinicians better target their prescription of the drugs and improve treatment outcomes.

The study authors investigated whether any genetic signatures were associated with a statin’s effectiveness in lowering patients' LDL-cholesterol levels. They used data from Caucasian, non-smoking participants in a clinical trial for Simvastatin. Reviewing the anonymized data, they were able to see which patients responded well to the treatment and which didn't and compare those reactions to data about their genomic profiles and gene expression.

The researchers found that differences in approximately 100 genes could explain 12% to 17% of the variation in how effectively the statin lowered patients' LDL-cholesterol. The genes were particularly accurate in predicting the patients who responded very well or very poorly. Some of these genes were involved in cholesterol metabolism, but further studies are needed to find out about the function of the others. More study is also needed to determine whether these genes are good indicators for populations other than Caucasian males. Read the study.

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