A Snapshot of the State of Personalized Cardiovascular Care

June 23, 2014

The second annual Ottawa Heart Research Conference convened on May 8, bringing together an enthusiastic community of scientists and trainees to share insights on personalized cardiovascular medicine. The theme was chosen in honour of former University of Ottawa Heart Institute President and CEO Robert Roberts, MD, an outspoken champion of cardiovascular genetics and personalized medicine.

Leading figures from across North America explored the state of the art in topics ranging from pharmacogenomics and epigenetics to technology and regulatory issues. Speakers represented organizations and sectors such as the Mayo Clinic; the University of California, Los Angeles; the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health; and the medical devices industry. The event was paired with the Canadian Cardiac Oncology Network annual conference. A joint plenary session on the cardiotoxicity of certain cancer drugs highlighted areas of common interest.

The picture that emerged at the event, 13 years on from the sequencing of the human genome, is that the world of cardiovascular medicine is beginning to make use of genetic information to tailor treatment. Targeted dosing for the anti-clotting drugs clopidogrel and warfarin is the primary example. The Heart Institute’s RAPID GENE trial employed the first-ever point-of-care genetic test to assess the viability and effectiveness of such screening.

More broadly, only a slice of our overall genetic risk for heart disease has been identified, structural hurdles in the health care system exist, and a massive educational effort that targets medical professionals is needed for incorporating genetic information into the mainstream of clinical care. Efforts are under way to address all of these issues, but with access to cheap full-genome sequencing looming, patients will soon have their genetic profiles in hand when meeting with their family physicians and will have many questions about what it all means.