News, Announcements and Expert Commentary from Inova

Precision Medicine: Treating Heart Disease One Patient at a Time

Palak Shah, MD, is board-certified in cardiovascular disease, internal medicine and advanced heart failure & transplant cardiology. He is the director of the Inova Cardiovascular Genomics Center at the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute.





Paul Gurbel, MD, is board-certified in cardiovascular disease, internal medicine and interventional cardiology. He is director of cardiovascular research at Inova, and the director of the Inova Center for Thrombosis Research and Drug Development at the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute.



Wouldn’t it be nice to know the best way to treat your heart disease, based on your unique DNA, biology, lifestyle and environment? That’s the goal we’re working toward at the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute.

No two patients are exactly alike, and our approach to treating their heart problems shouldn’t be either. Thanks to new tools and techniques, heart disease treatment is becoming much more personalized — and much more precise.

Personalized Medicine & Heart Disease

In a sense, we have been practicing “personalized medicine” for decades. For example, we check a patient’s blood type before we give a blood transfusion. Over the past decade, personalized medicine has really begun to morph into “precision medicine.” Along with our clinical diagnosis, we can layer in additional information about a patient’s biology, lifestyle and environment to create more tailored treatments. The benefit is twofold: Patients get the treatments with the best chance of success and the lowest risk of side effects or complications.

One great example is the Plavix resistance test. The drug Plavix (clopidogrel) can prevent dangerous cardiac complications in patients at high risk of blood clots, such as those receiving a stent for coronary artery disease. Yet some people have a gene that reduces the effects of the drug. We now have a quick and accurate test we can perform at the patient’s bedside to identify that gene and predict how well they will respond to the drug. We now routinely test every patient getting a stent. When the test indicates a patient carries the gene and will likely be resistant to Plavix, cardiologists can then prescribe alternative medications.

Genetic Screening for Heart Problems

The Plavix test is just one example of the ways that genetic screening can help us tailor our treatments. Inova also offers a test called MediMap® Heart. This test analyzes genes that can predict a patient’s response to 8 different heart medications. The results give us several important pieces of information:

  • Which medication is likely to work best for a given patient
  • What dosage is best
  • Whether certain drugs are likely to have negative side effects

Testing a patient’s response to medications isn’t the only way we’re using precision medicine. In some cases, we can test patients for genes or blood markers that are linked to certain heart problems. The results of those tests can help us come up with the correct diagnosis and guide our treatment of disease.

What’s more, many of these heart problems run in families. Genetic testing can help us reduce the risk for family members who may also have inherited these diseases.

Precision Medicine at Inova

The whole field of cardiovascular medicine is moving toward a precision approach. At Inova, we’ve made it a mission to stay ahead of the curve.

The Inova Center for Personalized Health, founded in 2015, applies the latest research and technology to deliver precision medicine to our patients. And in 2016, we created the Inova Cardiovascular Genomics Center to treat adult and children with heart problems related to genetic factors. The first program of its kind in the region, the Cardiovascular Genomics Center offers highly specialized heart experts, genetic counselors and a dedicated laboratory for genomic testing.

Throughout our healthcare system, we’re committed to offering our patients the best new treatment options. The Inova Heart and Vascular Institute is involved in more than 100 research studies and clinical trials to study drugs, devices and diagnostic tests for patients with heart disease.

Learn more about our innovative Cardiovascular Genomics Center. To hear more from Dr. Shah and Dr. Gurbel, listen to our podcast “Inova Ask The Doctor: Precision Medicine in Treating Cardiovascular Disease.”

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