Genetic tests help predict response to antipsychotic drugs

5 November 2018 (Last Updated November 5th, 2018 12:05)

A new study conducted by the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in the US has demonstrated that genetic tests can be used to identify schizophrenia patients who are likely to respond to treatment with antipsychotic drugs.

Genetic tests help predict response to antipsychotic drugs
Genetic testing using polygenic risk scores predict response to antipsychotic drugs. Credit: Nogas1974 via Wikimedia.

A new study conducted by the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in the US has demonstrated that genetic tests can be used to identify schizophrenia patients who are likely to respond to treatment with antipsychotic drugs.

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that results in delusions, hallucinations, disorganised thoughts and behaviour. It is known to be one of the primary causes of disability in the US.

The disease is commonly treated using antipsychotic drugs, which are chosen through a trial-and-error approach. The treatment does not leverage lab tests that could validate the effectiveness of the therapy.

In the latest study, the researchers assessed the use of genetic tests to predict the response to drugs in patients suffering their first schizophrenic episode. The team used polygenic risk scores for testing.

Feinstein Institute assistant professor Jian-Ping Zhang said: “Polygenic risk scores represent the combined effects of many thousands of genetic variants across the entire genome, and better represent the very complex genetic nature of schizophrenia.”

“The results we found open the door for ‘precision medicine’ approaches to psychiatry and the use of polygene scores as a new technology for the treatment of psychiatric disorders.”

Findings showed that patients with higher polygenic risk scores were less likely to respond to standard antipsychotic therapy. The data was found to be consistent in two independent cohorts, one of which was evaluated by European researchers.

Feinstein Institute professor Todd Lencz said: “The results we found open the door for ‘precision medicine’ approaches to psychiatry and, more specifically, the use of polygene scores as a new technology for the treatment of psychiatric disorders.”

The team intends to expand the study in order to facilitate clinical guidelines for the use of polygenic risk scores and other predictors such as brain scans in schizophrenia treatment.

Findings from the Feinstein Institute study were published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.