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Sniffing out cancer

Genetic changes in nose cells may warn of a deadly disease

 

(Part 1 of a 3-part series on BU’s Ignition Awards)

Every day, about 450 Americans die from lung cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. One way to reduce that number, says Jerome Brody, a School of Medicine professor of medicine, is to find the disease earlier. Brody, along with coinvestigator Avrum Spira, a MED assistant professor of medicine, thinks he may know how to do that, based on something that the nose knows. The researchers believe that certain genetic changes in the cells that line the nose could be telltale signs of cancer.

The promise of this research led BU’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) to award Brody and Spira one of this spring’s three Ignition Awards, each about $50,000. Four times a year, with the help of a five-person committee of senior venture capitalists from the Boston area, OTD selects Ignition Award winners from applications submitted by BU professors or students whose research is ready to make the leap from the laboratory to the business world.

“The Ignition Awards program exists to recognize research that will someday translate into commercially available technologies, products, or treatments,” says Stanford Willie, executive director of OTD. “This first batch of winning projects represents diverse and potentially lifesaving applications in health and medicine.”