Cell discovery in lymphoma could improve treatment for blood cancer

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New information on how aggressive lymphomas work could lead to earlier detection of cancer and improvements in treatment, the researchers say.

In a study conducted by the University of Southampton, researchers have found a key feature of aggressive B lymphomas that is not seen in normal B cells. According to the researchers, this new understanding could help guide future work towards earlier detection of cancer and more targeted treatments.

The to study was published in Some blood, Journal of the American Society of Hematology.

Lymphoma is a type of cancer of the blood that affects white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are an important part of your immune system. According to Blood Cancer UK, more than 14,000 people are diagnosed with lymphoma each year in the UK, making it the fifth most common cancer and the most common blood cancer.

Changes in B cells

The research team, led by Prof. Francesco Forconi, observed a tumor-specific change in B cells. These cells are part of the body’s immune system and are responsible for producing antibodies. B cells have an antibody-like molecule on their surface called a B-cell receptor. In the study, researchers demonstrated how receptors can differ in aggressive lymphomas by the presence of unusual sugars, called glycans, in them. B cell lymphoma receptor antigen binding sites.

From these results, researchers, including glycobiologist Professor Max Crispin and cancer immunologist Professor Freda Stevenson, determined that these glycans have a specific structure that allows lymphoma cells to receive signals from molecules called “lectins. Which are attached to surrounding cells, allowing the tumor to survive and grow in the lymph nodes.

Early detection and therapeutic targeting

Francesco Forconi, Professor of Hematology at the University of Southampton, said: “This very exciting teamwork describes the structure of the glycans covering the surface of the tumor B cell receptor and how it works. This is a remarkable tumor characteristic required by all tumor cells in patients with the most common lymphomas.

“This is a new specificity required by lymphoma cells to survive, which we now know how to detect and from which we are learning how it works. Our findings pave the way for further investigations, including early detection of cancer and therapeutic targeting, both of which will be our future goals. “

The genetic characteristics of these lymphomas were described with lymphoma expert Louis Staudt, based at the National Institute of Health, Bethesda, USA. The team also included Professor Thomas Bowden, from the Division of Structural Biology at the University of Oxford, who determined the three-dimensional structure of a fragment of the receptor containing the unusual glycans.

The study was funded by the Blood Cancer UK charity and the Keanu Eyles Fellowship.

The researchers now plan to precisely target the interactions between these glycans and lectins by therapeutic antibodies that are being developed by the Forconi team, in collaboration with the Antibody Vaccine Group (Professor Mark Cragg) in Southampton and Professor Carl Figdor of Radboud University in the Netherlands in a project grant funded by Cancer Research UK.

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