BUSM Professor, BMC Physician Receives Award for Advancing Research on Tobacco Smoke’s Effect on Lungs

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October 28th, 2013

Avrum Spira

Avrum Spira

Avrum Spira, MD, MSc, the Alexander Graham Bell professor of medicine and chief of the division of computational biomedicine at Boston University School of Medicine, is the recipient of the Alton Ochsner Award Relating Smoking and Disease. The award will be presented to Spira today at the Opening Session of the Annual Meeting of the American College of Chest Physicians in Chicago.

This award recognizes Spira’s seminal research contributions that have enhanced the understanding of the biological response of lung tissue to tobacco smoke, which can cause lung cancer and chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD). Spira has applied innovative approaches to measure gene expression in populations of lung cells damaged by tobacco toxins and was the first to define the reversibility and permanent impact of cigarette smoke on gene activity in the bronchial airway. Spira’s lab has leveraged this genomic response in the airway to develop an early detection biomarker that can enable physicians to diagnose lung cancer earlier among smokers at risk for disease. This has important scientific, clinical and therapeutic implications. More recently, his group has extended this genomic approach to develop molecular biomarkers that can guide treatment decisions in COPD and identify novel therapeutic opportunities for this chronic debilitating disease.

Spira, who also is a physician in the pulmonary, critical care and allergy department at Boston Medical Center, is a graduate of Vanier College, Montreal, Canada, the McGill University Faculty of Medicine, also in Montreal, and Boston University (BU). He also is the Director of the Translational Bioinformatics Program within the Clinical Translational Science Institute of BU.

The Award is named in honor of Doctor Alton Ochsner, co-founder of the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans. In 1939, Ochsner was the first to publish evidence relating cigarette (tobacco) smoking as the primary cause of lung cancer.