Complex disease-associated pharmacogenetics: drug efficacy, drug safety, and confirmation of a pathogenetic hypothesis (Alzheimer's disease)

Pharmacogenomics J. 2007 Feb;7(1):10-28. doi: 10.1038/sj.tpj.6500397. Epub 2006 Jun 13.


Safety and efficacy pharmacogenetics can be applied successfully to the drug discovery and development pipeline at multiple phases. We review drug-target screening using high throughput SNP associations with complex diseases testing more than 1,800 candidate targets with approximately 7,000 SNPs. Alzheimer's disease data are provided as an example. The supplementation of target-selected screening with genome-wide SNP association, to also define susceptibility genes and relevant disease pathways for human diseases, is discussed. Applications for determining predictive genetic or genomic profiles, or derived biomarkers, for drug efficacy and safety during clinical development are exemplified by several successful experiments at different phases of development. A Phase I-IIA study of side effects using an oral drug for the treatment of breast cancer is used as an example of early pipeline pharmacogenetics to predict side effects and allow optimization of dosing. References are provided for several other recently published genetic association studies of adverse events during drug development. We illustrate the early identification of gene variant candidates related to efficacy in a Phase IIA obesity drug trial to generate hypotheses for testing in subsequent development. How these genetic data generated in Phase IIA are subsequently incorporated as hypotheses into later Phase clinical protocols is discussed. A Phase IIB clinical trial for Alzheimer's disease is described that exemplifies the major pipeline decision between program attrition and further clinical development. In this case, there was no significant improvement in 511 intention-to-treat patients but, applying a confirmed prognostic biomarker (APOE4) to segment the clinical trial population, all three doses of rosiglitazone demonstrated improvement in patients who did not carry the APOE4 allele. The data for the APOE4 carriers demonstrated no significant improvement but suggested that there may be a need for higher doses. Thus, a development program that would have been terminated progressed to Phase III registration trials based on the results of prospective efficacy pharmacogenetic analyses. The implications of using APOE genotype as a biomarker to predict efficacy and possibly dose, as well as supporting the basic neurobiology and pharmacology that provided the original target validation, is discussed. Citations are provided that support a slow neurotoxic effect over many years of a specific fragment of apoE protein (over-produced by apoE4 substrate compared to apoE3) on mitochondria and the use of rosiglitazone to increase mitochondrial biogenesis and improve glucose utilization. Pharmacogenetics is currently being used across the pipeline to prevent attrition and to create safer and more effective medicines.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / drug therapy*
  • Alzheimer Disease / genetics*
  • Alzheimer Disease / pathology
  • Apolipoproteins E / genetics
  • Biomarkers
  • Drug Industry
  • Drug-Related Side Effects and Adverse Reactions
  • Genome, Human
  • Genotype
  • Humans
  • Pharmacogenetics*
  • Rosiglitazone
  • Thiazolidinediones / adverse effects
  • Thiazolidinediones / therapeutic use


  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Biomarkers
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • Rosiglitazone