Personalized Pain Relief


STANFORD, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — When it comes to health, we each have our own specific symptoms and concerns. Unfortunately, treatment typically isn’t individualized, until now. Stanford School of Medicine has developed an innovative program called the Humanwide Project. Through wearable technology, genetics, and other tools, it aims to personalize care and take the mystery out of how we work. Personalized Pain Relief

Debbie Spaizman can’t get enough of her prize roses. But her green thumb was nearly sidelined by a health concern. Surgery was needed, but she hesitated due to how she reacted to pain medication.

Spaizman shared, “My head would spin. I really was foggy, and I had itching all over my body. But I had no pain relief at all. I thought twice about having the surgery.”

To get answers, Spaizman enrolled in the Humanwide Project at Stanford Medical School. The study flips the model on healthcare by personalizing treatment. That includes a deep dive into pharmacogenics.

Megan Mahoney, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine at Stanford University said, “Pharmacogenomics specifically tests for genes that look at the rate in which we metabolize drugs. It can determine the dosing of medications and also predict any side effects”.

(Read Full Interview)

Meaning our genes can play a big role in how we respond to medicine. And so, with a quick swab of the cheek, Spaizman finally got answers.

“The result of the test showed that I’m a slow metabolizer. Drugs will stay in my system longer than they will for someone else,” said Spaizman.

With that, a plan started to come together for Spaizman.

Dr. Mahoney explained, “We were able to identify the class of opioids that would work for her based on her pharmacogenomic make-up and then she was able to go through with the surgery.”

Spaizman said, “It was life changing for me.”

And she’s not the only one.

“Twenty-five percent of patients had a change in their dose of medication based on the pharmacogenomics test,” Dr.  Mahoney told Ivanhoe.

It’s an approach that Spaizman calls an …

“Absolutely game changer,” Spaizman said.

Stanford is not the only one paying attention to pharmacogenics. In addition to Saint Jude Hospital, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is making a big push to personalize medicine for its vets. The program will enroll those with a history of cancer but will also inform doctors how patients will metabolize other medicines they need. It launched in North Carolina but plans to help patients at over twelve hundred sites by 2022. The Stanford program also treats patients’ other genetic concerns with mobile trackers.

Contributors to this news report include: Jennifer Winter, Field Producer; Cyndy McGrath, Supervising Producer; Rusty Reed, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4672

BACKGROUND: Pharmacogenetics is the study of how people respond differently to drug therapy based upon their genetic makeup or genes. Diet, overall health, and environment also have significant influence on medication response, but none are stronger indicators of how you will process medication than your genetics. All drugs will eventually leave the body by a process called elimination, but the time that they stay active, in your bloodstream working, is often determined by genetic variations that change the way your drug-processing enzymes work. Utilizing pharmacogenetics allows a healthcare provider to choose the right drug and dose that are likely to work best for each individual patient. Tailoring a patient’s medication to their unique genetic characteristics may one day replace the one-size-fits-all approach to drug selection and dosing that is commonly used today.


METABOLIZE: Some people metabolize medication differently from the majority of the population. They are known as poor metabolizers of that medication. For example, When a patient receives a heart stent, the interventional cardiologist prescribes antiplatelet therapy, a combination of medicines that work together to prevent the formation of blood clots in or around the stent that can block blood flow (stent thrombosis), possibly resulting in a heart attack or even death.


HUMANWIDE: Megan Mahoney, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine at Stanford University talked about the Humanwide Project, “Pharmacogenomics is sort of the most exciting and the most cutting edge. But really what we were hoping to achieve was utilizing new streams of data that weren’t currently being used in primary care that we knew had a lot of promise. Pharmacogenomics is a great example. Also, we’re probably under-utilizing even just genetics assessments for all sorts of conditions not just their drug gene interactions that we get from pharmacogenomics. We were also assessing every single patient for genetic risk for cardiovascular diseases and cancer.”

(Source: Megan Mahoney, MD)


Margarita Gallardo – Broadcast Media Manager, Stanford Medicine


If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Megan Mahoney, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine

Read the entire Q&A