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MEDIA CONTACT: Gisele Galoustian
Boca Raton Regional Hospital: Thomas Chakurda

FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine and Boca Raton Regional Hospital Collaborate on Novel Research Initiative for Breast Cancer

Project Indicative of Burgeoning Scientific Relationship Between the Institutions

BOCA RATON, FL (October 18, 2012) — Reflective of the growing collaboration between the two institutions and in observance of national Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, researchers at Florida Atlantic University’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine and Boca Raton Regional Hospital have announced a joint research initiative aimed at predicting breast cancer behavior and developing therapies that will block the metastatic process of the disease. The preliminary findings of the study were presented at 22nd Biennial European Association of Cancer Research Conference in Barcelona, Spain this summer.

“This initial effort is a watershed moment in our burgeoning research partnership,” said Kathy Shilling, M.D., medical director of Boca Regional’s Christine E. Lynn Women’s Health and Wellness Institute. “It combines our significant strength in clinical breast care with the cutting-edge basic research capabilities of the Schmidt College of Medicine. All of us are excited about this growing collaboration, not just in breast cancer but across the spectrum of our specialties.”

Vijaya Iragavarpu-Charyulu, Ph.D., associate professor of biomedical science in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine is collaborating with Schilling, and the project has been designed to evaluate novel metastatic markers in breast cancer patients and to investigate their possible correlation with the aggressiveness of the disease. Iragavarapu-Charyulu has been studying the role of the immune system and mechanisms involved in breast cancer metastasis. Ramon Garcia-Areas, a Ph.D. student in Iragavarapu-Charyulu’s laboratory, has discovered that a molecule originally expressed during the development of the nervous system is re-expressed during tumor growth and enhances tumor metastatic potential in a breast cancer model. In order to establish clinical relevancy of these findings, Schilling and her team will provide tissue, blood and tumor samples from breast cancer patients, which will be used to correlate the interesting findings of Iragavarapu-Charyulu’s team and investigate the means to halt the metastatic process.

“These studies could have a long-term predictive value in identifying those at risk for aggressive disease and therefore impact how we design appropriate therapeutics,” said Iragavarpu-Charyulu. “The data obtained from this study are expected to result in publications and in the submission of grant proposals to various funding agencies including the National Institutes of Health (NIH).”

Metastasis is responsible for 90 percent of all cancer deaths despite significant improvements in diagnosis and treatments. According to the American Cancer Society, in 2011, an estimated 230,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed among women, and approximately 39,520 women are expected to die from breast cancer this year alone.

“We are very pleased to be expanding our collaboration with Boca Raton Regional Hospital,” said David J. Bjorkman, M.D., M.S.P.H., dean of FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine. “The promise of developing therapies to block the metastatic process will provide a powerful tool in the armamentarium for combatting breast cancer across the globe.” 

The funds for this pilot project were provided by the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Foundation.


About the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine :
With the addition of one of America’s newest medical schools at FAU, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine ( is capitalizing on its existing strengths in basic, applied and translational biomedical research. Researchers in the College are addressing some of the world’s most pressing health challenges including cardiovascular disease and stroke, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, macular degeneration, autoimmune diseases and HIV/AIDS. The new medical school welcomed its inaugural class of 64 students in August 2011 and its Class of 2016 in August 2012. The College has developed a new and innovative curriculum, which features early and continuous community-based clinical experiences and problem-based learning with emphasis on small-group and self-directed learning. The curriculum includes a student-centered and patient-focused approach and clinical experiences with local physicians, health departments and hospitals, and a state-of the-art medical simulation center. A key component of the innovative curriculum is early exposure to patients and the actual practice of medicine. To that end, the College has established relationships with several prominent area hospitals that are serving as sites for clerkships, hospital-based electives and residencies. During clinical trainings, students have the opportunity to work side-by-side with physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of patients, applying knowledge learned from the first two years of study to real-life situations.

About Boca Raton Regional Hospital - Medicine. Redefined :
Born out of community need in 1967, Boca Raton Regional Hospital is an advanced, tertiary medical center ( ) with 400 beds and more than 800 primary and specialty physicians on staff. The Hospital is a recognized leader in oncology, cardiovascular disease and surgery, minimally invasive surgery, orthopedics, women’s health and emergency medicine, all of which offer state-of-the-art diagnostic and imaging capabilities. The Hospital is a designated Comprehensive Stroke Center by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).

Boca Raton Regional Hospital is the recipient of the 2012 Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical ExcellenceTM by HealthGrades for the eighth year in a row. Only 40 of the nation’s 5,000 hospitals have earned such a consecutive distinction. The Hospital is also the recipient of the 2012 Best 100 Hospitals in the Nation for: Cardiac Care, Stroke Care, Gastrointestinal Care, General Surgery and Prostatectomy and is ranked #1 in state rankings for Gastrointestinal Medical Treatment and Overall Gastrointestinal Treatment by HealthGrades for 2012. Boca Raton Regional Hospital is also recognized in U.S. News Media & World Report’s 2011 - 2012 Best Hospitals listing as a top ranked hospital in the South Florida metropolitan area.

Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of three signature themes – marine and coastal issues, biotechnology and contemporary societal challenges – which provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit

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