November 3, 2017

Expert Q&A – Personalized Medicine

Lynn Dressler, DrPH, Director of Mission Health’s Personalized Medicine Program, answers some common questions.

What is personalized medicine and how does it work?

The goal of personalized medicine at Mission Health is to predict your response to medications, including whether the medications will work for you or produce a bad side effect. By testing genes that process medications, we can better select medications for you instead of using a trial-and-error approach. While personalized medicine is commonly used with cancer medications, Mission Health is among few community health systems in the country serving both cancer and noncancer patients.

Can testing give information on my response to all medications?

This field is new, and we don’t yet have tests to predict response to all 2,000 medications on the market. Testing is available for medications used to treat cancer and other chronic conditions like behavioral health and pain.

What steps are involved in this testing?

Your doctor can refer you to the Mission Personalized Medicine Clinic. You’ll meet the personalized medicine team, learning the benefits and limitations of testing. If you decide to be tested, your cheek will be swabbed and the sample sent to a lab. Results are shared with you and your doctor.

Who should consider personalized medicine? Understanding how your body processes medications can increase effectiveness of medication therapies and reduce your risks for bad side effects. Patients most likely to benefit include:

  • Patients starting medications with an FDA warning indicating that testing could be done before the medication is used
  • Patients who have previously had a bad medication response, especially to a medication strongly associated with genetics
  • Patients who have not responded to first line antidepressant medications
  • Older patients taking more than five medications, including at least one linked to a gene-medication response
  • Patients who want to learn about their genes and responses to medications

Lynn Dressler, DrPH, is Director of Mission Health’s Personalized Medicine Program. (828) 213-1044

To learn more about Mission Health’s Personalized Medicine Program, call (828) 213-1044 or visit