A personalized plan to help a person quit smoking is being designed, according to a study at the Duke University Medical Center and the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).
Researchers have found new evidence, which suggests that combining information about a smoker's genetic makeup with his or her smoking habits can accurately predict which nicotine replacement therapy will work best.
"Within three to five years, it's conceivable we'll have a practical test that could take the guesswork out of choosing a smoking-cessation therapy. It could be used by clinicians to guide the selection of treatment and appropriate dose for each smoker, and hopefully increase cessation success rates," said Dr. Jed Rose, director of Duke's Center for Nicotine and Smoking Cessation Research.
In previously published reports, less than five percent of smokers who tried to quit on their own without any aids were not smoking one year later.
Long-term quit rates for smokers who relied on pharmacological intervention hover under 25 percent.
The research follows previous work done by Dr. Rose and George Uhl, chief of the molecular neurobiology research at NIDA.
After conducting a genome-wide scan of 520,000 genetic markers taken from blood samples of smokers in several quit-smoking trials, they identified genetic patterns that appear to influence how well individuals respond to specific smoking cessation treatments.
The latest research focuses on combining the information from those individual genetic markers, called SNPs, into one number that represents a "quit success score," said Rose.
The score and the smokers' nicotine dependence, assessed via a simple questionnaire, help predict an individual's likelihood of quitting, as well as whether a high-dose or low-dose nicotine patch would work best.
"The genotype score was part of what predicted successful abstinence. In the future such a score could help us make our initial treatment decisions. People who had both high nicotine dependence and a low or unfavorable quit success genetic score seemed to benefit markedly from the high-dose nicotine patch, while people who had less dependence on nicotine did better on the standard patch," said Rose.
Further studies are needed to replicate these results, and to expand the research to include therapies like verenicline (Chantix, Pfizer) and bupropion hydrochloride (Zyban, Glaxo SmithKline), said Rose.
But the potential this work holds for the future is significant, he added.
The study has been published online in the July-August issue of Molecular Medicine.