Joe Sellers walks a mile every day on what's been an incredible journey. A viral infection after a surgery ten years ago left him with heart failure. "I was in total shock. Basically I was told, you're going to die," said heart patient, Joe Sellers.
The Sellers got some good news. He responded well to drugs called beta blockers. They saved his life. "still can't do all the things I want to do but enough that it makes it worthwhile waking up."
Of the five and a half million Americans with heart failure, most take beta blockers, but about half don't respond to the treatment. In some cases, the drugs even make the condition worse. "You play this empirical crap shoot," says Cardiologist, Dr. Michael Bristow. It may take months to determine if the therapy works, and by then, it could be too late.
About half the people with heart failure die within five years of diagnosis, which is why it's important to find out quickly how well a person's doing on a drug.
Cardiologist Michael Bristow with the University of Colorado School of Medicine is one of the authors of a study using the beta blocker, Bucindilol. Researchers foud a genetic marker that can determine before treatment, whether the drug will help a patient. "5.10% of patients are actually harmed by the therapy and you can never predict who those are up front. Now with our genetic testing we think we can predict who those are," says Dr. Bristow.
Bristow says their findings are another step toward a revolution in medicine using genetics to personalize care. And for Joe Sellers and millions of others, it's a potential tool in the sometimes tricky life or death business of treating heart patients.