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M. D. Anderson Researcher Honored by American Society of Preventive Oncology

M. D. Anderson Researcher Honored by American Society of Preventive Oncology
M. D. Anderson News Release 06/08/00

The American Society of Preventive Oncology has recognized a well-known epidemiologist at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center for her contributions to the field.

Dr. Margaret R. Spitz, chair of the Department of Epidemiology, received the society's Distinguished Achievement Award recently at the organization's 24th annual meeting held in Bethesda, Md.

Dr. Spitz is nationally known for her research in genetic susceptibility to cancer development. Her recent findings include the report of a possible hereditary component to nicotine addiction by identifying genetic variations in the dopamine receptor genes, the DRD2 allele, in the brain. Dopamine is the chemical responsible for pleasurable feelings. These findings may explain why some people have a harder time quitting smoking and others can quit “cold turkey.”

"Dr. Spitz is a true leader in the field of molecular epidemiology," says Dr. Bernard Levin, M. D. Anderson's vice president for cancer prevention.

"She provides very capable leadership for outstanding research in the Department of Epidemiology. This department has added significantly to the body of knowledge about genetic and environmental susceptibility to cancer, as well as susceptibility due to the combination of genes and environment. She has continued to conduct leading-edge research and provide unyielding support for departmental faculty," he says.

In a partnership with industry, her group is funded to validate new, super-fast technology that is helping identify common genetic differences that may lead to cancer susceptibility. Hypothetically, in one year, the computer could genotype all of Houston’s 4 million residentsvirtually impossible until now.

Additionally, she and her colleagues are examining the best ways to automate preparation of samples used in research and to archive lab specimens for long-term storage and easy retrieval.

"This new technology will replace the traditional, time-consuming methods for genetic identification," Dr. Spitz says. "This will help us identify individuals at high risk for certain types of cancer, making it possible to tailor risk-reduction and therapeutic strategies."

She has served on National Institutes of Health Study sections and has received M. D. Anderson’s Ben and Julie Rogers Award for Excellence for her work in cancer prevention, as well as the Faculty Achievement Award in Cancer Prevention.

Dr. Spitz was named to the Olga Keith Weiss Chair for Cancer Research in 1998. She joined

M. D. Anderson in 1981 and was appointed as the first permanent chair of the Department of Epidemiology in 1995. Dr. Spitz received her medical degree from the University of Witwatersrand Medical School in Johannesburg, South Africa, and earned her master’s of public health degree from The University of Texas School of Public Health.

06/07/00


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