Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute Unveils New Labs

A new era in breast cancer research was unveiled as the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center dedicated new research laboratories for the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute.

The event took place at the Miller School’s Biomedical Research Building, now home of the Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute’s research headquarters, where some 90 guests toured the facilities on Tuesday to see firsthand how scientists and clinicians are working together to advance breast cancer research, treatment and care.

As University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala commented to guests crowded along the lab’s corridor, “We do not have proper space here for celebrations, because this is not that kind of facility. This is a working laboratory, dedicated to research, and dedicated to finding a cure.”

The institute was created in 2002 by a $5 million gift from the Braman Family Foundation. The goal was to include a working laboratory where scientists and clinicians collaborate to discover and implement more effective treatments for breast cancer patients, with the ultimate goal of curing the disease.

“We tend to view scientists as solitary individuals, locked away in the ivory tower,” said Braman Family Breast Cancer Institute Director Joyce Slingerland, M.D., Ph.D. “In reality, the road to discovery is a collaborative path that requires insights and expertise at all levels. For a scientist to take research to the clinical trial stage represents a leap into hyperspace. Moving science from the laboratory to the patient takes more than a village; it takes an international team.”

Since joining Sylvester in 2002, Slingerland has focused on building that team, which now includes 20 basic scientists and more than 30 clinicians. The Braman Institute is currently conducting nearly two dozen clinical trials in breast cancer treatment, and under the leadership of Dr. Slingerland, along with Braman Institute Clinical Director Mark Pegram, M.D., the team is exploring new ways of assessing breast cancer risk, diagnosing the disease in its earliest stages and predicting which treatments will be most effective in each patient. Surgeons at the Braman Institute operate on more than 600 patients each year, and medical teams care for more than four times that number.

“The impact of the Braman facility on the Sylvester Center, the Miller School of Medicine, the University of Miami and the South Florida community is tremendous,” said Miller School Dean Pascal J. Goldschmidt, M.D. “It was Norman and Irma Braman’s vision to bring in a premiere physician and researcher to lead the only academic-based breast cancer center in South Florida.”

University of Miami Trustee Norman Braman advocated taking the Braman Institute to the next level. “What we have here is a first-class research facility,” Braman said. “What we need now is a first-class clinical facility to do justice to the research being done here. That’s the next step we need to take.”

The Bramans’ dedication to fighting breast cancer stems from their own experience of watching Irma Braman’s sister battle the disease for almost twenty years before succumbing to it. Norman Braman said he looks forward to attending another event in the next two to three years to dedicate a world-class clinical center to complement the institute’s research facility.

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