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Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, Mayo Clinic to Study Pharmacogenomics of Alcoholism Treatment

NEW YORK – The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and Mayo Clinic have signed an agreement to collaborate on a research project to identify genetic markers to help predict response to the drug acamprosate, which is used as a treatment for alcoholism.

The five-year study is coordinated with and funded by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The overarching aim of the study is to develop a blood test that can help addiction care providers understand who should receive acamprosate and who shouldn't because they are likely to experience side effects or be nonresponsive, the organizations said.

Mayo Clinic research Victor Karpyak is the primary investigator on one NIAAA grant, which specifically funds a search for genetic markers associated with acamprosate versus placebo treatment response in alcohol use disorder patients on a genome-wide scale. The grant began in September 2018 and is slated to run through 2023, and was worth $763,910 in its first year.

Another Mayo Clinic researcher, Richard Weinshilboum, is PI on a second associated grant that is supporting the study of so-called pharmacometabolomics — combining metabolomic biomarkers with molecular signatures to help predict acamprosate treatment response. This grant also began in September 2018 and runs through May 2023. It was renewed in June of this year and is worth $492,590 in the current year.

The researchers will recruit 800 people receiving care for alcohol use disorder at Mayo Clinic-affiliated treatment programs in Rochester and Albert Lea as well as at Hazelden Betty Ford in Center City, Minnesota, a large campus that includes residential treatment services and embedded researchers. Study participants will provide blood for genetic testing that will identify variants to help predict their response to the use of acamprosate or a placebo.

"By finding the molecular drivers of alcohol use disorder, we hope to not only inform more precise use of medications and the development of new ones, but also encourage more help-seeking by instilling more confidence in the effectiveness of treatment," Marvin Seppala, chief medical officer of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, said in a statement. "This also could be a step toward one day being able to predict, genetically, who is most likely to develop alcohol use disorder."