Newswise — Although normal inflammation plays an important role in helping to fight off infections, there is mounting evidence that chronic inflammation is linked to increased risk of tumor development. A new study conducted by researchers in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University is helping to shed light on the important link between inflammation and cancer, and how pre-existing inflammation may aid in the metastatic process.

In an article titled, “Allergen Induced Pulmonary Inflammation Enhances Mammary Tumor Growth and Metastasis: Role of CH13L1,” featured on the cover of the current issue of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology, this new research suggests inflammation raises the level of a known biomarker of cancer, called “chitinase-3-like-1” or “CHI3L1,” in the inflamed tissue, which leads to increased metastasis and faster cancer growth in that tissue. Metastasis is responsible for 90 percent of breast cancer deaths despite significant improvements in diagnosis and treatments.

“Important findings from our research show how pre-existing inflammation may be one of the factors that accelerates metastasis to the inflamed site,” said Vijaya L. Iragavarapu-Charyulu, Ph.D., the principal investigator of the study and associate professor of biomedical science in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine. “This study may serve as a starting point for future research on how other inflammatory diseases may predispose patients for increased metastasis.”

To make their discovery, Iragavarapu’s team used two groups of mice, one of which was genetically modified so it could not produce the CHI3L1 glycoprotein. They then induced the two groups of mice to become asthmatic, after which the mice were challenged with breast cancer cells. After four weeks, researchers observed that there was less inflammation in the mice lacking CHI3L1 expression and that the tumors in these mice did not grow as fast. These mice also had less metastasis to the lungs.

“In this study, we found that CH13L1 was an important inflammatory protein that promoted tumor growth and metastasis, providing the necessary ‘soil’ or the proper environment for the ‘seeds,’ that is the circulating breast tumor cells,” said Iragavarapu-Charyulu. “We are encouraged by the results of our study and hopeful that it will help us to better develop targeted therapeutics to treat cancer.”

This project is supported by the National Cancer Institute and the National Center for Research Resources of the National Institutes of Health through grant number 2R15 CA13513-02A1, 3R15CA135513-02A1 and contributions from Jack Laub, a private donor.

Details: Stephania Libreros, Ramon Garcia-Areas, Patricia Keating, Nathalia Gazaniga, Philip Robinson, Alison Humbles, and Vijaya L. Iragavarapu-Charyulu. Allergen induced pulmonary inflammation enhances mammary tumor growth and metastasis: Role of CHI3L1. J Leukoc Biol. doi:10.1189/jlb.3A0214-114RR.

- FAU -

About Florida Atlantic University: 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 critical areas that form the basis of its strategic plan: Healthy aging, biotech, coastal and marine issues, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, informatics, lifespan and the environment. These areas provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit

Journal Link: Journal of Leukocyte Biology