New research shows genetics can predict the success of smoking cessation, as well as the need for medications.
Funded by the National Institutes of Health, the research, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, moves health care providers a step closer to providing more individualized treatment plans to help people quit smoking, researchers claim.
“This study builds on our knowledge of genetic vulnerability to nicotine dependence, and will help us tailor smoking cessation strategies accordingly,” said National Institute on Drug Abuse Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D.
“It also highlights the potential value of genetic screening in helping to identify individuals early on and reduce their risk for tobacco addiction and its related negative health consequences.”
Researchers focused on specific variations in a cluster of nicotine receptor genes, CHRNA5-CHRNA3-CHRNB4, which previous studies showed contribute to nicotine dependence and heavy smoking.
Using data obtained from a previous study, researchers showed that people carrying the high-risk form of this gene cluster reported a two-year delay in the median age of when they quit smoking compared to those with the low-risk genes.
Those with the high risk gene cluster also had a pattern of heavier smoking than others.
The researchers then conducted a clinical trial, which confirmed that people with the high-risk genes were more likely to fail in their attempts to quit when treated with a placebo compared to those with the low-risk genes.
However, medications approved for nicotine cessation, such as nicotine replacement therapies or bupropion, increased the likelihood of abstinence in the high risk groups, the researchers note.
Those with the highest risk had a three-fold increase in their odds of being abstinent at the end of active treatment compared to a placebo, indicating that these medications may be particularly beneficial for these people.
“We found that the effects of smoking cessation medications depend on a person’s genes,” said first author Li-Shiun Chen, M.D., of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“If smokers have the risk genes, they don’t quit easily on their own and will benefit greatly from the medications. If smokers don’t have the risk genes, they are likely to quit successfully without the help of medications such as nicotine replacement or bupropion.”
Source: National Institutes of Health