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Studying the role of B-cell receptors in human lymphomas

  • Researcher: Professor Graham Packham
  • Institution: University of Southampton, England
  • Award Amount: £199,563 for 3 years from January 2013
  • Cancer Type: Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma
Studying the role of B-cell receptors in human lymphomas
B-cells are a type of white blood cell that is a part of our immune system. The majority of the B-cells live within specific areas of different organs such as lymph nodes, which are located throughout the body, or the spleen, which is found near our stomach. These organs, called lymphoid tissues, also form part of the lymphatic system, and this is where our bodies fight many of the infections that we experience. Cancers that affect B-cells, such as lymphomas, often grow in the lymph nodes or spleen, but they can be found anywhere in the lymphatic system. B cells have a key molecule on their surface, called the B-cell receptor (BCR), which allows them to recognise specific structures, called antigens, which can, for example, be found on viruses or bacteria. When B cells recognise an antigen, they become activated, making them able to detect and fight infections. Many cancers that affect B-cells are also thought to depend on the BCR to grow and survive. Some mutations, which cause the BCR to be switched on, have been found in a small group of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma cases. Professor Packham and his team have found a new way in which the BCR maybe be able to be switched on, even without the antigen, and this may play a role in nearly all cases of follicular lymphoma, a disease that develops in lymphoid tissues. If the BCR is switched on without antigen, it may allow these cancer cells to gain supporting signals from cells within the surrounding area. They believe that this may be a cause for the growth or survival of lymphomas, and aim to study this further with their new grant. This research will provide new information about human lymphomas, which could be used to improve the way we treat this disease, and possibly find new treatment options.
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