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M. D. Anderson Researcher Receives Distinguished Professor Award from Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute

M. D. Anderson Researcher Receives Distinguished Professor Award from Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute
M. D. Anderson News Release 06/18/04

The Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute (FAMRI) has recognized a nationally prominent epidemiologist and expert on women and tobacco at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center for her contributions to the field.

Margaret R. Spitz, M.D., chair of the Department of Epidemiology, was selected to receive the 2004 Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor Award. This honor carries a $600,000 award to conduct epidemiological research.

Spitz was honored at FAMRI’s 3rd Annual Scientific Symposium in Miami Beach recently where she delivered a luncheon address.

FAMRI established the Distinguished Professor honor in 2002 to recognize contributions of scientists who have improved the health of Americans. The award is named for Cahan, a surgeon and pioneer in the national movement to fight the health hazards of tobacco and second-hand smoke.

“The Flight Attendant Medical Research Institute is proud to add Margaret Spitz as a Distinguished Professor to further our mission,” says Elizabeth Kress, FAMRI Executive Director. “Dr. Spitz’s research in epidemiology at M. D. Anderson will augment the work of FAMRI’s Center of Excellence at Weizmann Institute and provide a link for FAMRI scientists to exchange knowledge and, hopefully, significant breakthroughs.”

FAMRI’s mission is to sponsor scientific and medical research for the early detection, prevention, treatment and cure of diseases and medical conditions caused from exposure to tobacco smoke.
The research institute was established as a result of a 1991 class action lawsuit against the tobacco industry for flight attendants’ diseases and deaths from second-hand smoke in airline cabins. A major component of the settlement agreement included $300 million from the tobacco industry to establish a non-profit medical research foundation.

With this award, Spitz plans to build on her previous research to find more effective markers for predicting lung cancer risk in smokers, thus reducing overall risk for the disease that remains the leading cancer killer in women and men across the nation. This research will be a collaboration with the FAMRI Center of Excellence at the Weizmann Institute, Rehovot, Israel.

Spitz’ current research includes:
· Studying inter-individual variation in susceptibility to the cancer-causing effects of tobacco using a variety of cellular and molecular markers of risk, combined with epidemiologic risk factor data. 
· Demonstrating that this susceptibility is likely genetically determined and is a determinant of risk for tobacco-related cancers, an important achievement with far-reaching implications.
· Finding that patients with efficient DNA repair capacity have poorer survival following chemotherapy than patients with less efficient repair capacity, a finding with immense clinical relevance.
· Evaluating genetic markers of nicotine addiction.
· Demonstrating 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.

While at M. D. Anderson, Spitz has received multiple awards, including the Julie and Ben Rogers Award for Excellence in Cancer Prevention, the Mesa Petroleum Company Professorship in Cancer Prevention, the Faculty Achievement Award in Cancer Prevention and the Olga Keith Wiess Distinguished Chair in 1998.

Additional honors include the Texas Business and Professional Women Award, the Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Society of Preventive Oncology and the National Cancer Institute’s Rosalind Franklin Science Award for Women in Science.

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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