UF researchers awarded $3.5 million grant to study outcomes using genetic information to guide blood thinning therapy

Researchers at the University of Florida have received a $3.5 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, or NHLBI, to study the effect of using genetic information to guide therapy after an angioplasty heart procedure to prevent heart attacks and strokes.

Larisa Cavallari headshot
Larisa Cavallari, Pharm.D., BCPS, FCCP

Blood clots leading to heart attack and stroke are one of the most common complications following an angioplasty, also known as a percutaneous coronary intervention. In the procedure, doctors place a stent to open blocked or narrowing arteries in the heart. Afterward, patients are prescribed aspirin and other blood thinning medications to prevent clots.

About 30 percent of patients in the U.S. carry a gene variant that reduces the effectiveness of the blood thinning drug clopidogrel, also known as Plavix. Genetic testing can help prescribers determine the right drug for angioplasty patients to reduce the risk of blood clots and avoid prescribing an ineffective medication.

“In previous studies, we have demonstrated the feasibility and clinical benefits of using a patient’s genetic information to guide prescribing decisions after percutaneous coronary intervention,” said Larisa Cavallari, Pharm.D., BCPS, FCCP, an associate professor of pharmacotherapy and translational research in the UF College of Pharmacy and one of the principle investigators on the grant. “Now we want to build upon that research to determine what other factors, such as ancestry, medical history and other genotypes, influence outcomes with genotype-guided therapy for heart patients.”

More than 6,000 angioplasty patients from across the country will be included in the NHLBI study. UF researchers will study outcomes over the course of 12 months to better understand who to genotype, what to include on a testing panel, how patient-specific factors influence therapies and how to change medications for angioplasty patients based on the results.

“If we can establish the key factors influencing outcomes with these genotype-guided therapies, then we have a real opportunity to further prevent death, heart attack and stroke after angioplasty,” Cavallari said.

Cavallari and Craig Lee, Pharm.D., Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Eshelman School of Pharmacy will serve as principle investigators on the grant. Multiple faculty from the UF Colleges of Pharmacy and Medicine will also be involved in the study.