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M. D. Anderson Researcher Awarded National Honor from American Association for Cancer Research

M. D. Anderson Researcher Awarded National Honor from American Association for Cancer Research
M. D. Anderson News Release 04/10/02

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) has recognized a nationally prominent 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, has been awarded the Association's 11th Annual AACR-American Cancer Society Award for Research Excellence in Epidemiology and Prevention.

Dr. Spitz received the award and presented an acceptance lecture April 9, during the AACR's 93rd annual meeting, held this year in San Francisco.

The AACR and the American Cancer Society established the award in 1992 to honor outstanding achievements in epidemiology, biomarkers and prevention.

The award selection committee noted the importance of Dr. Spitz' research, including:

  • Studying inter-individual variation in susceptibility to tobacco carcinogenesis using cytogenetic and molecular markers of risk.
  • Demonstrating that genetic susceptibility is a determinant of risk for tobacco-related cancers, an important achievement with far-reaching implications, according to the committee.
  • Finding that patients with efficient DNA repair capacity have poorer survival following chemotherapy than patients with less efficient repair capacity, which has immense clinical relevance.
  • Evaluating genetic markers of nicotine addiction.

Dr. Spitz demonstrated that individuals with susceptible genotypes tend to develop cancer at earlier ages and with lower levels of tobacco exposure than do individuals with non-susceptible genotypes.

She is principal investigator of several projects funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), including a Clinical and Epidemiologic Center sponsored by the Early Detection Research Network on biomarkers for upper aerodigestive tract cancer.

Dr. Spitz is participating in a funded collaboration with industry to develop high through-put and low-cost genotyping platform. She recently served as co-chair of the NCI's Lung Cancer Progress Review Group, which was charged with developing a national research agenda for treating and preventing lung cancer.

She is devoted to mentoring her junior faculty and postdoctoral students and in stewarding her
department to a leadership role nationally in cancer epidemiology, Dr. Spitz says. She was awarded the Julie and Ben Rogers Award for Excellence in Cancer Prevention in 1991, the Mesa Petroleum Co. Professorship in Cancer Prevention in 1994 and the 1994 Faculty Achievement Award in Cancer Prevention at M. D. Anderson. Dr. Spitz was named to the Wiess Chair in 1998, received the Texas Business and Professional Women Award in 1998 and the Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Society of Preventive Oncology in 2000.

Dr. Spitz joined M. D. Anderson in 1981, becoming the first permanent chair of the Department of Epidemiology in May 1995. She earned her medical degree from the University of Witwatersrand Medical School in Johannesburg, South Africa, and her master's of public health degree from The University of Texas School of Public Health, where she currently holds an academic appointment, as well as at The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.


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