Our Founder

Our Founder

James Ernest Ayre M.D.

Canadian-born James Ernest Ayre, M.D., was a gynecologist who sought to find a cure for cancer through research into immunology and cytology, cytology being the microscopic study of cells to detect abnormalities and malignancies.

A 1936 graduate in medicine from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, after three years in general practice, Dr. Ayre underwent training in obstetrics and gynecology at Montreal’s Royal Victoria Hospital and St. Mary’s Hospital. In 1945, he was appointed director of the gynecological cytology laboratory at Royal Victoria Hospital and two years later was named an honorary Fellow of the American Medical Association and Diplomate in Gynecology of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

Along with Dr. George Papanicolaou, Dr. Ayre was a pioneer in cytological cancer detection methods as early as the 1940’s when such research was in its beginning stages.

His impact upon the field, especially in the area of women’s health, was groundbreaking. After his arrival in the U.S., in collaboration with Dr. Papanicolaou, he was co-inventor of the Ayre Spatula, the instrument still used today to collect cervical cells for the detection of cancer. After being granted a patent in 1949, he donated to the American Cancer Society all the profits from the sale of his cervical scraper.

Dr. Ayre’s creative approach to cancer diagnosis continued apace with his invention of the gastric brush and other instruments employed in the diagnosis of cancers of the lung, throat, stomach and colon. Further, he introduced the cyto-sputum kit, a simple but brilliant test which uses saliva to detect pre-cancerous and cancerous cells in the mouth, throat and lung.

Dr. Ayre was also in the front ranks of early researchers into the enormous cancer treatment potential of the drug interferon. Today, interferon is used to treat cancers as various as leukemia, melanoma and AIDS-related Kaposi’s sarcoma, as well as such viral infections as chronic hepatitis B and C.

During the course of his sterling career, Dr. Ayre held a number of positions with noted cancer institutions and organizations, among them vice president of the Cancer Cytology Foundation of America, executive vice president of the World Cancer Cytology Congress, and medical and scientific director of the National Cancer Cytology Center.

The capstone of his dedicated professional life was marked in 1953 when Dr. Ayre founded the National Cancer Cytology Center, forerunner of today’s National Cancer Center. Committed to research and education about cancer, since 2011 alone National Cancer Center has provided nearly $2,000,000 in funding for basic research into the cure, prevention and diagnosis of cancer. We are honored to carry on Dr. Ayre’s legacy through our funding for specialized research projects: Aggressive Cancer, Breast Cancer, Children’s Cancer and Fighting Childhood Leukemia.

For more information about Dr. Ayre’s research please click here  https://www.nlm.nih.gov

Ayre spatula