Avrum Spira, M.D.

Professor of Medicine, Pathology, & Bioinformatics
Director, Boston University – Boston Medical Center Cancer Center
Chief, Division of Computational Biomedicine

BU Profile for Dr. Spira


Medical School: McGill University
Internship: University of Toronto
Residency: University of Toronto
Fellowship: Boston University
Master’s/PhD programs: Masters Degree in Bioinformatics, College Of Engineering, Boston University

Special Interests:


  • Lung cancer and COPD genomics
  • Smoking and airway gene expression
  • Bioinformatics


  • Critical Care Medicine
  • Pulmonary Medicine

Dr. Spira is a Professor of Medicine, Pathology and Bioinformatics, and the Alexander Graham Bell Professor in Health Care Entrepreneurship at Boston University. He is founding Chief of the Division of Computational Biomedicine in the Department of Medicine and Director of the Boston University – Boston Medical Center Cancer Center. He is also an attending physician in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Boston Medical Center.

Dr. Spira obtained his MD from McGill University in Montreal, and completed his Internal medicine residency at the University of Toronto and his fellowship in Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at BMC. During his fellowship, Dr. Spira obtained a master’s degree in Bioinformatics from Boston University.

Since his 2003 appointment to the BU faculty, Dr. Spira has built a translational research program that focuses on genomic alterations associated with smoking-related lung disease, leading to a molecular test for the early detection of lung cancer that has successfully translated into the clinic (PerceptaTM) as well as a novel therapeutic for COPD that is in preclinical development. His research program is based on the paradigm that smoking and other inhaled carcinogens create a ‘field of molecular injury’ in epithelial cells that line the respiratory tract. By sampling these relatively accessible airway cells, Dr. Spira’s lab has developed novel diagnostic and therapeutic biomarkers for lung cancer and COPD as well as a non-invasive approach for measuring the physiological response to a number of inhaled environmental exposures. He has co-founded both a molecular diagnostics company and a pharmaceutical company in order to translate these tools from “bench to bedside”.

He serves as Principal Investigator on grants from the National Cancer Institute (NCI); National Heart, Lung, Blood Institute (NHLBI), National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Department of Defense (DoD), and has authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications. Dr. Spira was a permanent member of the NIH’s Cancer Biomarker Study Section (CBSS) and currently serves as Senior Editor at Cancer Prevention Research as well as Associate Editor at the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. He was elected a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation (ASCI) in 2010 and a member of the Association of American Physicians (AAP) in 2017.

Selected Publications:

    1. Perez-Rogers, J.F., J. Gerrein, C. Anderlind, G. Liu, S. Zhang, Y. Alekseyev, K. Porta, D. Whitney, W.E. Johnson, D. Elashoff, S. Dubinett, J. Brody, A. Spira*, M.E. Lenburg*, for the AEGIS Study Team.  Shared gene expression alterations in nasal and bronchial epithelium for lung cancer detection.  Journal of the National Cancer Institute.  2017 Jul 1;109(7). PMCID in process (* contributed equally)
    2. Pavel AB, Campbell JD, Liu G, Elashoff D, Dubinett S, Smith K, Whitney D, Lenburg ME, Spira A. Alterations in Bronchial Airway miRNA Expression for Lung Cancer Detection. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2017 Sep 06.View Related Profiles. PMID: 28877936.
    3. Beane J, Mazzilli SA, Tassinari AM, Liu G, Zhang X, Liu H, Buncio AD, Dhillon SS, Platero SJ, Lenburg ME, Reid ME, Lam S, Spira AE. Detecting the Presence and Progression of Premalignant Lung Lesions via Airway Gene Expression. Clin Cancer Res. 2017 Sep 01; 23(17):5091-5100.View Related Profiles. PMID: 28533227.
    4. Beane J, Campbell JD, Lel J, Vick J, Spira A. Genomic approaches to accelerate cancer interception. Lancet Oncol. 2017 Aug; 18(8):e494-e502. PMID: 28759388.
    5. Vachani A, Sequist LV, Spira A. AJRCCM: 100-Year Anniversary. The Shifting Landscape for Lung Cancer: Past, Present, and Future. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2017 May 01; 195(9):1150-1160. PMID: 28459327.
    6. Moses, E., T. Wang, S. Corbett, G. Jackson, E. Drizik, C. Perdomo, C. Perdomo, E. Kleerup, D. Brooks, G. O’Connor, S. Dubinett, P. Hayden, M. Lenburg*, A. Spira*. Molecular impact of electronic cigarette aerosol exposure in human bronchial epithelium. Toxicol Sci. Jan;155(1):248-257. 2017 PMCID:PMC5216655 (* contributed equally)
    7. Campbell JD, Mazzilli SA, Reid ME, Dhillon SS, Platero S, Beane J, Spira AE. The Case for a Pre-Cancer Genome Atlas (PCGA). Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2016 Feb; 9(2):119-24.View Related Profiles. PMID: 26839336; DOI: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-16-0024;.
    8. Silvestri, GA, A. Vachani, D. Whitney, M. Elashoff, K. Porta Smith, J.S. Ferguson, E. Parsons, N. Mitra, J. Brody, M.E. Lenburg, and A. Spira.  A Bronchial Genomic Classifier for the Diagnostic Evaluation of Lung Cancer.  New England Journal of Medicine.  2015 Jul, 16;373(3):243-51 PMCID: PMC4838273
    9. Whitney, D.H., M.R. Elashoff, K. Porta, A.C. Gower, A. Vachani, J.S. Ferguson, G.A. Silvestri, J.S. Brody, M.E. Lenburg, A. Spira.  Derivation Of A Genomic Classifier For Lung Cancer In A Prospective Study Of Patients Undergoing Diagnostic Bronchoscopy. BMC Medical Genomics. 2015 May, 8:18 PMCID: PMC4434538
    10. Perdomo, C., J.D. Campbell, J. Gerrein, C. Tellez, A. Gower, J. Vick, C. Garrison, C. Anderlind, G.R. Jackson, F. Schembri, B.N. Gomperts, P. Hayden, S.A. Belinsky, M.E. Lenburg*, A. Spira*.  2013.  Identification of MiR-4423 as a Primate-Specific MicroRNA Highly Expressed in Airway Epithelium and Associated with Lung Cancer.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 110(47):18946-51, 2013 Nov. (* contributed equally) PMCID: PMC3839685
    11. Steiling K, van den Berge M, Hijazi K, Florido R, Campbell J, Liu G, Xiao J, Zhang S, Duclos G, Drizik E, Si H, Perdomo C, Dumont C, Alekseyev YO, Sin D, Pare P, Hogg JC, McWilliams A, Hiemstra P, Sterk PJ, Timens W, Chang JT, Sebastiani P, O’Connor GT, Bild AH, Postma DS, Lam S, Spira A*, Lenburg ME*. A dynamic bronchial airway gene expression signature of COPD and lung function impairment. Am J Respir Crit Care Med.187(9):933-42, 2013 May PMCID: PMC3707363 (*co-senior authors)
    12. Campbell J., McDonough J, Zeskind J, Pechkovsky D, Brandsma,CA, Suzuki M, Gosselink J, Liu G, Alekseyev Xiao Y, Zhang X, Hayashi S, Cooper J, Timens W, Postma D. Knight D, Lenburg M*, Hogg J*.  Spira, A*.  A gene expression signature of emphysematous lung destruction in COPD is reversed by a potential novel therapeutic.  Genome Medicine.  4:67 2012. (* co-senior) PMCID: PMC4064320
    13. Gustafson A, Soldi R, Anderlind C, Scholand M,  Qian J,  Zhang S, Cooper K, Walker D,  McWilliams A, Liu G, Szabo E, Brody J, Massion P, Lenburg M,  Lam S, Bild A, Spira A.  Airway PI3K pathway activation is an early and reversible event in lung cancer development. Science Translational Medicine. 2(26):26ra25, 2010.  PMCID: PMC3694402
    14. Schembri F, Sridhar S, Perdomo C, Gustafson A,  Zhang X, Ergun A, Lu J, Liu G, Zhang X, Bowers J,   Vaziri C, Ott K, Sensinger K, Collins J, Brody J, Getts R, Lenburg M, Spira A. MicroRNAs as modulators of smoking-induced gene expression changes in human airway epithelium. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 106:2319-24, 2009.  PMCID: PMC2650144
    15. Spira A, Beane J, Shah V, Steiling K, Liu G, Schembri F, Gilman S, Dumas Y, Calner P, Sebastiani P, Sridhar S, Beamis J, Lamb C, Keane J, Lenburg M, Brody J.  Airway Epithelial Gene Expression in the Diagnostic Evaluation of Smokers with Suspect Lung Cancer.  Nature Medicine. 13:361-6, 2007.
    16. Spira, A, Beane J, Shah V, Liu G, Schembri F, Yang X, Palma J, Brody J. Effects of Cigarette Smoke on the Human Airway Epithelial Cell Transcriptome. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA. 101:10143-8, 2004.  PMCID: PMC454179

Selected Reprints:

  1. Detecting the Presence and Progression of Premalignant Lung Lesions via Airway Gene Expression
  2. Shared gene expression alterations in nasal and bronchial epithelium for lung cancer detection
  3. A Bronchial Genomic Classifier for the Diagnostic Evaluation of Lung Cancer