Research projects

Understanding the causes of lymphoma in children

Researcher
Dr Lisa Westerberg
Project period
Jan 2022 - Jan 2025
Country
Research Institute
Karolinska Institutet
Cancer types
Childhood lymphoma
Award amount
£225,000

Project aim

Dr Lisa Westerberg and her team are studying the molecular mechanisms that allow normal cells of the immune system to transform into lymphoma in children. They hope that their research will reveal new insights into this disease, which will help identify new ways to treat it in the future.

Hope for the future

Lymphoma is the third most common childhood cancer, making up 10-15% of all cancers affecting children. Children born with some immune system disorders are prone to develop lymphoma and often have much worse outcomes. For example, children born with Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome are likely to develop lymphoma and have less than 5% chance of surviving 2 years or more after their diagnosis.

 

Image of B cells by Dr. Mezida Saeed

Meet the scientist

Dr Lisa Westerberg has two children and spends most of her free time on basketball and football. But she says it’s fantastic to see them develop and grow in their teams as it gives her a lot of inspiration for how her lab works as a team for the best scientific progress. Lisa also like to go for early morning runs, which gives her time for reflection. She says some of the best scientific ideas have come during these early morning runs, even in the Swedish temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius!

The science

B cell lymphoma is the most common type of lymphoma diagnosed in children. It is caused by genetic mutations in a type of immune cell, called a B cell, which are normally activated in response to an infection. For many children, cure rates for B cell lymphoma are high, but there are children who will relapse after successful treatment and the cancer comes back resistant to current therapies. There are also children born with genetic disorders, such as Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome, who are highly likely to develop childhood lymphoma and have much poorer outcomes.

Dr Westerberg believes that there is a set of genes responsible for maintaining control of B cell activation and suppressing development of lymphoma. Her team think that mutations to these genes cause changes in how the cells function that leads to B cell transformation and lymphoma. In this project, the researchers will study cells from lymphoma patients to gain new genetic and molecular insights into the disease. They will also conduct experiments manipulating the genes involved in B cell lymphoma, with the goal of identifying new treatment options.

We hope our research will one day help to cure all children with cancer and find better and affordable treatments for all patients.
Dr Lisa Westerberg

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