A Personalized Approach: Why ACE is Raising Funds for Pharmacogenomics Research

Dr. Mark Dunnenberger, Program Director for Pharmacogenomics at NorthShore, 2016 ACE Co-Chairs Dana Turban and Debbie Kerr, and ACE jewelry artist Aaron Macsai.

Dr. Mark Dunnenberger, Program Director for Pharmacogenomics at NorthShore, 2016 ACE Co-Chairs Dana Turban and Debbie Kerr, and ACE jewelry artist Aaron Macsai.

The upcoming American Craft Exposition (ACE) has surely made a name for itself within the North Shore community and beyond over the last 32 years. The Show, which brings together over 140 of the country’s leading craftspeople to our community, has made significant fundraising contributions to NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore) – our area’s largest health system.

This year, The Auxiliary of NorthShore and ACE is supporting innovative pharmacogenomics research at NorthShore. Part of NorthShore’s pioneering Center for Personalized Medicine, pharmacogenomics allows researchers to analyze and predict how patients react to medications based on genetic variants. This information can be used to customize medical treatments, ensuring that patients receive the right drug in the right dose at the right time, minimizing the side effects and adverse reactions to drugs for patients.

Leading this effort at NorthShore is Dr. Mark Dunnenberger, Program Director for Pharmacogenomics. In 2014 Dr. Dunnenberger came to NorthShore as one of only 15 people in the country with residency training in clinical pharmacogenomics. In its dedicated fashion, the pharmacogenomics clinic at NorthShore is extremely unique, being one of only a handful of others across the country with the ability to conduct this specific segment of DNA research, analyze patients and more.

While this may be the first you are hearing of pharmacogenomics, it has actually been around for more than 50 years. During the mid-90’s researchers began looking at DNA and how patients were responding to different types of medications, however the cost and knowledge of what to do with this information and how to use it clinically was a constant roadblock. Now, Dr. Dunnenberger and his team are charged with building the type of clinical decision support that it will take to analyze and deliver this information to the patient when they need it.

Patients who decide to undergo testing will take a cheek swab test which will collect cells, allowing Dr. Dunnenberger and his team to take a focused look at the patient’s DNA – specifically looking at how the patient will respond to medications. They then review and put together a summary report highlighting their findings which is ultimately moved to the patient’s electronic medical record. “This is where we need clinical decision support to make sure that the patient’s care team of physicians and nurses can have access to this valuable information,” said Dr. Dunnenberger. “The key is to get this information into the hands of the right people.”

Dr. Mark Dunnenberger, Program Director for Pharmacogenomics at NorthShore addresses a crowd at the ACE 2016 Kick-off event.

Dr. Mark Dunnenberger, Program Director for Pharmacogenomics at NorthShore addresses a crowd at the ACE 2016 Kick-off event.

According to Dr. Dunnenberger, 97% of patients that come through the clinic have at least one variant that could affect how they respond to medicine. For example, one patient that underwent testing had a particular variant that indicated what types of anti-depressants may or may not be appropriate for them. Because the results of the test were unavailable to the clinician due to a lack of resources to get the information uploaded into the system, the patient received one of the typically prescribed agents and ended up experiencing side effects. Had the information been in the system, the care team would have known to avoid this particular medication altogether. “Pharmacogenomics is not a crystal ball. It will not tell you what medicine to take and the exact dose,” added Dr. Dunnenberger. “But It will help reduce the amount of trial and error medicine that is currently in practice.”

With the support of ACE, the pharmacogenomics team at NorthShore will be able to provide patients with the opportunity to take a test that will have value throughout their lifetime. Interestingly enough, whether you take the swab test as a baby or a 50-year-old, the results will be the same. As researchers continue to learn more about genetic variations and their impact on the effectiveness of medications, the value of this test will only be maximized. The significance is driven by optimizing drug therapy for you as an individual.

Dr. Dunnenberger will be on-hand at this year’s ACE, the weekend of September 23-25 at the Chicago Botanic Garden, to present on pharmacogenomics and its potential to make a revolutionary impact on patient treatment and outcomes. Be sure to attend his lecture on Friday, September 23rd at 3pm. Admission to the lecture is complimentary with your purchase of a ticket to ACE – which will directly support pharmacogenomics research at NorthShore. Tickets are available here.

If you are interested in taking a swab test and learning more about your genetic make-up, call 847-570-GENE to schedule a visit in the clinic.

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