Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, have found that the same gene variants that make it difficult to stop smoking also make it more likely that the individual will benefit from nicotine-replacement therapy. The results of the study may one day be useful in predicting which patients are most likely to respond to drug treatment for nicotine addiction.
Data was analysed from more than 5000 smokers who participated in community-based studies and more than 1000 smokers in a clinical treatment study, focusing on the relationship between a person’s ability to quit smoking and genetic variations determining the risk for heavy smoking and nicotine dependence. It was found that smokers with a genetic makeup that makes them more likely to be heavy smokers; addicted to nicotine and have problems quitting, also made them more likely to respond to drug treatment for giving up smoking.
Senior investigator and professor of psychiatry, Laura Jean Beirut, said that the research could be used to ensure that individuals whose genetic makeup suggests an increased likelihood to respond to drug therapy are treated accordingly, in addition to counselling. First author Li-Shiun Chen, said that individuals with high-risk genetic markers smoked approximately two years longer than those without these genes, and were less likely to quit without medication. In the clinical treatment study such people were three times more likely to benefit from drug therapies, such as nicotine patches and the antidepressant, buproprion.
Tobacco use is a major public health problem worldwide, causing cancers of the lung and other organs, as well as respiratory and cardiovascular disease. The results of this study could prove vital in moving a step closer towards personalised medicine, using a person’s genes to determine their treatment and leading to more effective therapies in combating nicotine addiction and smoking.
Written by Mrinalini Dey