Demetrios Vavvas to Receive Carl Camras Translational Research Award at ARVO 2016

March 1, 2016
Demetrios Vavvas

Demetrios Vavvas, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the Joan W. Miller Scholar in Retinal Research at Massachusetts Eye and Ear, was selected to receive a 2016 ARVO Foundation/Pfizer Ophthalmics Carl Camras Translational Research Award. The award will be presented at the 2016 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) Annual Meeting in May.

Established in 2010 by the ARVO Foundation through a generous donation from Pfizer Ophthalmics, the award is given in honor of the late Carl B. Camras, MD (1953-2009), a glaucoma specialist and research scientist widely recognized for developing prostaglandin analogues for the treatment of elevated intraocular pressure in patients with glaucoma. An educational innovator, Dr. Camras also had a personal interest in developing the next generation of eye and vision researchers.

“It is through the support and guidance of my department chair and colleagues, and the trust of the award committee and referees, that I accept this prestigious award,” said Dr. Vavvas, who also co-directs the HMS Ophthalmology Ocular Regenerative Medicine Institute. “Dr. Camras was an outstanding clinician scientist, and a true role model for us all. I hope to proudly follow in his footsteps.”

At Mass. Eye and Ear, Dr. Vavvas cares for patients with diabetic retinopathy, ocular tumors, and the “dry” form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) for which effective treatments are currently lacking. In a recent collaboration with Joan W. Miller, MD, FARVO, Henry Willard Williams Professor of Ophthalmology and Chair of the HMS Department of Ophthalmology, and researchers at the University of Crete, Dr. Vavvas conducted a phase I/II clinical trial investigating the efficacy of statins (cholesterol-lowering medications) for the treatment of patients with the dry form of AMD. The researchers found evidence that treatment with high-dose atorvastatin (80mg) is associated with regression of lipid deposits and improvement in visual acuity, without progression to advanced disease, in high-risk AMD patients. Their findings were published in EBioMedicine — a new online journal led by editors of the journals Cell and The Lancet — and not only further the connection between lipids, AMD and atherosclerosis, but also present a potential therapy for some patients with dry AMD.

Dr. Vavvas also focuses his research on neuroprotection strategies that aim to preserve photoreceptor cell loss, and prevent vision loss in patients with degenerative eye diseases. By elucidating the mechanisms of neuroprotection, Dr. Vavvas has helped identify viable therapeutic targets. Currently, Dr. Vavvas is investigating the role of inflammation and necroptosis in neuronal survival and regeneration. He also is studying the role of autophagy in drusen deposits, and the role of AMPK, a sensor that maintains energy homeostasis in neurovascular health.

Dr. Vavvas’ work is supported by a Research to Prevent Blindness Physician Scientist Award (2013), an Alcon Research Institute Young Investigator Award (2015), an R01 and R21 from the National Eye Institute, and several foundations awards, including the Yeatts Foundation. Dr. Vavvas is a sought-after lecturer with more than 120 peer-reviewed publications to his credit. He was recently honored with the New England Hellenic Medical and Dental Society HYGEIA Award (2016).

Committed to training the future leaders of ophthalmology, Dr. Vavvas has mentored more than 25 clinical and research trainees. A previous Co-director of the Medical Retinal Fellowship at Mass. Eye and Ear, Dr. Vavvas currently co-organizes the annualMass. Eye and Ear Vitrectomy Course, now in its 7th year.

Photo credit: Kevin Caldwell Photography