By Jorie Logan
Hope is on the horizon for chronic migraine sufferers as researchers have worked hard to uncover new DNA links and risk factors to aid in migraine treatment. The latest study, conducted by an international research team led by Dr. Dale Nyholt of Queensland University of Technology, is the largest genetic study of migraine ever conducted.1
The team discovered 44 DNA variants, including 38 distinct genes and 28 genes that never before had been linked to migraine medicine.1 30 of these genes highlight previously unknown risk factors for patients with migraine disease.2 The study used 375,000 patient samples from Europe, Australia, and the United States, with approximately 60,000 participants being migraine sufferers.2
In addition to the unearthing of all these DNA links, it was found in the study that much of what causes a migraine lies in vascular dysfunction as well as poor blood vessel function1, a concept that has long puzzled migraine researchers in the search for adequate treatments and, ultimately, a cure for migraine disease.
Nyholt elaborated, “Finding these genetic risk factors is the first crucial step to identifying the pathways that cause migraine and then developing pharmaceuticals.”1
Nyholt’s and his team’s study, published in Nature Genetics, highlights the comparison of eight million DNA variants between 60,000 migraine patients, with 316,000 controls in 22 separate genomic studies.1
Professor John-Anker Zwart from the Oslo University Hospital in Norway explained, “These genetic findings are the first concrete step towards developing personalized, evidence-based treatments for this very complex disease. We doctors have known for a long time that migraine patients differ from each other and the drugs that work for some patients are completely inefficient for others.”2
So what does that mean for the future of migraine treatment?
One chronic migraineur, Stormy Parlier, filled us in on her recent experience with TEV-48125, a newly approved genetic treatment for chronic migraines through TEVA Pharmaceuticals. This treatment parallels the recent research led by Nyholt. Parlier reports that she has suffered migraines since age 9 and was officially diagnosed at age 19. She is now 24.
TEV-48125 is one of the newest in the line of genetically-based migraine treatments used in clinical trials, and has been reported to work more rapidly than any other method via injection. TEV-42185 is “a fully humanized monoclonal antibody that potently and selectively binds to calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP).”3 It has not been released on the pharmaceutical market yet, but many trials prove to be successful.
“I did some research on what was known about CGRP,” said Parlier. “Basically, this is scientists’ best guess of a common core in migraines.”
Parlier went on to state that prior to her first treatment, she was asked to complete a 30-day migraine diary to give insight into her experience, as well as a few other tests: “[I had an] EEG, physical exam, blood work, and urine tests,” Parlier explained. “[I also had] an extensive medication background listing.”
PharmQuest, the facility at which Parlier receives TEV-48125 injections, is a clinical research company located in Greensboro, NC specializing in the development of new medications and safety of new pharmaceuticals. Parlier is part of their final clinical trials.
Many migraineurs are optimistic with the advances in genetic medicine for migraine, but quick to take it with a grain of salt. With the success of trial studies, researchers hope this may answer many of the baffling questions that were once just medical guesswork.
Parlier, however, remains very hopeful. “I’ve seen more positives from this treatment than negatives, but even if it only helps 25% of migraineurs, that’s still millions of people gaining a quality of life,” she said. “I’ve seen patients say it worked for them by lowering migraine days per month.”
1 Briggs, Casey. (2016, June 21). “Migraine researchers make ‘crucial’ DNA link discovery.” Retrieved from http://mobile.abc.net.au/news/2016-06-21/migrane-research-finds-dns-links-that-could-improve-treatment/7530202?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed
2 Helsingin, Yliopisto (University of Helsinki). (2016, June 20). “Large-scale genetic study provides new insight into the causes of migraine.” Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/06/160620112510.htm
3 Bigal, M. E., Dodick, D. W., Krymchantowski, A.V., et al. (2016, June 8). “TEV-48125 for the preventative treatment of chronic migraine.” Retrieved from http://www.neurology.org/content/early/2016/06/08/WNL.0000000000002801.long