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 American Craft Exposition (ACE) has undoubtedly made a name for itself within the North Shore community and beyond over the last 32 years. In addition to being one of the top fine craft shows in the country, ACE has made significant fundraising contributions to NorthShore University HealthSystem (NorthShore).

This year, funds raised at ACE will support innovative pharmacogenomics research at the NorthShore Center for Personalized Medicine. ACE funding will allow researchers to analyze and predict how patients will 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.

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 United States with residency training in clinical pharmacogenomics. The pharmacogenomics clinic at NorthShore is extremely unique as it is one of only a handful of clinics across the country with the ability to conduct this specific segment of DNA research and analyze patients.

While this may be your first introduction to pharmacogenomics, it has been around for more than 50 years. During the mid-90’s researchers began looking at DNA and how it affected a patient’s response to different types of medication, however the cost and lack of knowledge around how to use this information in a clinical setting served as a constant roadblock. Now, Dr. Dunnenberger and his team are charged with building clinical decision support tools that will allow physicians to analyze and deliver this information to the patient when they need it most.

Patients who undergo testing will take a cheek swab test to collect cells, which will allow Dr. Dunnenberger and his team to take a focused look at how the patient’s genetic variants will affect their response to medications. The team will then review and put together a summary report highlighting their findings, which will ultimately be recorded in 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 prescription medication. For example, one patient that underwent testing had a variant that indicated certain categories of anti-depressants may not be an effective treatment for them. Because the results had not been entered into the patient’s electronic medical record and were unavailable to the clinician, the patient received one of the typically-prescribed agents and ended up experiencing side effects. If the information had been in the patient’s record, 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 gain valuable insights that will be relevant throughout their lifetime. As researchers continue to learn more about genetic variations and their impact on the effectiveness of medications, the benefit of pharmacogenomics testing will only continue to grow.

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 pharmacogenomics test and learning more about your genetic makeup, call 847-570-GENE to schedule a visit in the clinic.

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