“What we can do now scientifically
is unprecedented and it’s going to get even better over the next five years.”
– Avi Spira
Dr. Avi Spira is making the world sit up and take notice. He is changing the way doctors handle patients at increased risk for lung cancer. After over a decade of grueling hours and painstaking persistence, Dr. Spira and his team have found a way to test the cells of a smoker’s or former smoker’s airway to determine if the patient is at risk for having or developing lung cancer. These cells are like a canary in a coal mine, Dr. Spira explained to the audiences of The Today Show and NBC Nightly News (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032619#36239305 ). “Though these were small studies and we are in the early days of the research, this test could represent a huge shift in the way doctors approach lung cancer care in the future.”
Our current medical practices are very limited when it comes to early diagnostics and effective therapies for those who are diagnosed. That’s why Dr. Spira wants to get results quickly. “We don’t primarily work with cells in dishes or animals in cages,” he says, “We want to get something into clinics to help patients.” And he is on his way. The test of airway cells that Dr. Spira developed is now being validated in a FDA-approved clinical trial. If the results do validate, Dr. Spira’s test will have a resounding impact on how the medical community cares for those at highest risk for lung cancer.
More amazing findings are on the horizon. “What we can do now scientifically is unprecedented and it’s going to get even better over the next five years,” he predicts. All fields of medicine will benefit from recent technological and scientific advances, such as super computing and the mapping of the human genome, including the care and treatment of lung cancer patients.
In the next five years Dr. Spira expects that doctors will be able to use biomarker tests to identify high-risk patients before they get the disease or when it is in early stages. And once the disease has been diagnosed, Dr. Spira foresees a more personalized approach to treatment. “We won’t just use chemo on everyone,” he says with excitement. “We’ll look for markers to help identify which treatments will be the most effective.”
And that’s where organizations like LUNGevity come in. “I really think that this foundation has an immediate impact by letting patients and families know that there is hope and by asking the public to support lung cancer research,” says Dr. Spira, who is a member of the LUNGevity Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board. “This foundation must continue funding highly innovative projects and supporting young researchers interested in studying lung cancer.”