Gene combinations help predict treatment success for alcoholism medication

An experimental treatment for alcohol dependence works better in individuals who possess specific combinations of genes that regulate the function and binding of serotonin, a brain chemical affected by the treatment, according to a study supported by the National Institutes of Health. A report of the finding appears online in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

"This study is another important step toward personalized treatments for ," says Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., acting director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which funded the study. "A personalized approach based on a person's genetic makeup is increasingly being investigated for delivering optimum treatment to the 'right' patient."

Ondansetron is a medication currently used to treat nausea and vomiting, often following chemotherapy. It works by blocking serotonin-3 receptors, and has shown potential as a treatment for defined subpopulations with alcohol dependence.

In previous studies, Professor Bankole Johnson, D.Sc., M.D., and his team at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, have shown that variations in genes that encode the serotonin transporter, a protein that regulates the concentration of serotonin between , can significantly influence drinking intensity. They have also shown that the effectiveness of ondansetron therapy among people with alcohol dependence is influenced by variations of the .

In the current study, Professor Johnson and his colleagues extended their prior work by analyzing variants of serotonin receptor genes, collectively designated as HTR3, among nearly 300 alcohol-dependent individuals who were participating in a clinical trial of ondansetron. They found that three HTR3 variants were significantly associated with the effectiveness of ondansetron treatment for alcohol dependence.

"Taken together, these studies implicate a collective effect of serotonin receptor and transporter gene combinations, defined by a five-marker genotype panel, on the response to treatment with ondansetron for a genetically defined subpopulation of individuals with alcohol dependence," says Professor Johnson. "Multi-site, larger studies are about to begin to progress this work."

More information: Johnson, B. et al. Determination of genotype combinations that can predict the outcome of the treatment of alcohol dependence using the 5-HT3 antagonist ondansetron, American Journal of Psychiatry. 2013 July 30

Related Stories

Researchers uncover gene's role in severity of drinking

Feb 04, 2009

New research from the University of Virginia Health System could help explain why some alcoholics are more severe drinkers than others. A UVA team has found strong evidence that the serotonin transporter gene, SLC6A4, plays ...

Alcohol use curbed by anti-nausea medication, study finds

Jan 25, 2011

Alcoholics who were given a medication approved for quelling nausea were able to cut back on their alcohol intake, researchers reported this week. The medication, ondansetron (Zofran), could become a readily available therapy ...

Self-medicating with alcohol linked to later dependence

May 05, 2013

(HealthDay)—Use of alcohol to self-medicate mood symptoms correlates with increased odds of subsequent alcohol dependence and persistence of dependence, according to a study published online May 1 in JAMA Ps ...

Recommended for you

Changes in scores of genes contribute to autism risk

Oct 29, 2014

Small differences in as many as a thousand genes contribute to risk for autism, according to a study led by Mount Sinai researchers and the Autism Sequencing Consortium (ASC), and published today in the journal Nature.

Dozens of genes associated with autism in new research

Oct 29, 2014

Two major genetic studies of autism, led in part by UC San Francisco scientists and involving more than 50 laboratories worldwide, have newly implicated dozens of genes in the disorder. The research shows ...

Genetic link to kidney stones identified

Oct 29, 2014

A new breakthrough could help kidney stone sufferers get an exact diagnosis and specific treatment after genetic links to the condition were identified.

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.