The future of race-based medicine

First National Conference to discuss ethical, legal and economic issues of prescribing medical treatments based on race

Oakland, CA (July 25, 2006) - Health experts, researchers and opinion leaders from across the country will meet in Northern California for a national conference on genomics, health and race. The goal of the conference is to explore how genomics could potentially be used to customize medical care such as diet plans and medications to improve the health of minorities. Conference attendees will discuss a wide spectrum of ethical, legal and economic issues related to these issues.

The meeting is organized by the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities (NCMHD) Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics, based at the University of California, Davis and Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI). Keynote speakers include Nicholas Wade, science writer for the New York Times, and Jeffrey Drazen, M.D., editor of the New England Journal of Medicine and professor at Harvard University. The conference chairman is Ronald Krauss, M.D., Senior Scientist at Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI).

"We are moving toward an era in which personalized medicine is a real possibility, but there are real concerns that must be resolved such as safeguards to ensure genetic information will not be used in a discriminatory way," said Dr. Krauss. "We hope this conference will begin a national dialogue to bridge the gap between science and social responsibility." Leading anthropologists and sociologists will also share their views during the conference.

It is widely accepted that biological differences dictate how diseases work between racial groups. For example, a study released by the American Heart Association in 2004 showed that African Americans responded better to a new heart failure pill than Caucasians. Southeast Asians have a higher incidence of lactose intolerance than any other racial group. African-American men also have a 60% greater risk of having prostate cancer and are two to three times more likely to die of the disease than men of European descent. However, a perplexing question for experts is to what extent biological differences are caused by genetics or by a person's diet, environment or culture.

The Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics is dedicated to reducing and ultimately eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities. "We believe genome-based nutritional interventions can prevent, delay and treat diseases such as asthma, obesity and cardiovascular disease," said Raymond Rodriquez, M.D., director of the Center and professor at UC Davis. "The knowledge that is gained and shared during this conference must be used to address health disparities among racial/ethnic populations and the poor."

Dr. Bertram Lubin, co-director of the Center and president of Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI), shares this enthusiasm. "Evidence based translational research is the next needed step to realize the tremendous benefits of using genetics to improve health outcomes," he said. "We must make sure patients understand and are at ease about the use of genomics before physicians will ever be able to use it in their day-to-day practice."

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Sponsors of the meeting, A National Dialogue: Genomic, Race, and Health Disparities, include: UC Davis; Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute; the Ethnic Health Institute and the Pharmacogenetics Research Network. The Center is funded by a grant from the National Center for Minority Health and Health Disparities, part of the National Institutes of Health.

The conference will be held August 18th and 19th at the Claremont Resort in Oakland, California. Registration and additional information are available at http://www.cevs.ucdavis.edu/Cofred/Public/Aca/ConfHome.cfm?confid=260.

About the National Center for Minority Health Disparities (NCMHD) Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics
The mission of the Center of Excellence for Nutritional Genomics is to reduce and ultimately eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities resulting from interactions between environment and genes, particularly those involving dietary, economic, and cultural factors. Our goal is to devise genome-based nutritional interventions to prevent, delay, and treat diseases such asthma, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and prostate cancer. To achieve this goal, the Center is taking a multidisciplinary approach to develop culturally competent methods and novel technologies to elucidate the complex interactions between environmental triggers, genes, and disease.

About the University of California, Davis
The University of California, Davis, makes a difference in the lives of people every day. Fueled by learning and energized by discovery, the UC Davis tradition of engagement with the local community, the nation and the world guides all that it does. The universityıs commitment to providing an attentive and research-enriched education creates a supportive learning environment for both students and faculty. UC Davis is a pioneer in interdisciplinary problem-solving, and its four colleges, five professional schools, more than 100 academic majors and 86 graduate programs make it the most comprehensive of all the University of California campuses.

About Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland
Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland is a designated Level I pediatric trauma center and the largest pediatric critical care facility in the region. The hospital has 181 licensed beds and 166 hospital-based physicians in 31 specialties, more than 2,500 employees, and an operating budget of $287 million. The hospital's research institute has an annual budget of $50 million with more than 300 basic and clinical investigators. Children's Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) has made significant progress in areas including pediatric obesity, cancers, sickle cell disease, AIDS/HIV, nutrition, cardiovascular disease, cord blood stem cells, and vaccine development.

About the Ethnic Health Institute
The Ethnic Health Institute was formed in conjunction with Alta Bates Summit Medical Center to expand opportunities for community outreach and coalition building around chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Minority populations, regardless of socioeconomic status, suffer disproportionately from health conditions that are both preventable and treatable. The Ethnic Health Institute explores ways to reduce these disparities by reaching out and providing health education to underserved populations, connecting them to resources in the community and enriching their quality of life.

About Pharmacogenetics Research Network (PGRN)
The NIH Pharmacogenetics Research Network is a nationwide collaboration of researchers studying the contribution of genetics to predicting responses to a wide variety of medicines. The overall aims of the groups are to discover important drug pathways, to identify sequence variants in relevant genes, and to establish biological relationships to clinical drug responses. Since its inception in 2000, scientists have studied genes and medications given for a range of diseases, including asthma, cancer, heart disease, and depression.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

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