B-Cell NHL Gene Discovered!

Researchers will report on the discovery of genetic defects that cause particular types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), making these genes rational targets for new anti-lymphoma treatments, in the next issue of of the journal Blood.

Researchers have found that defects in one gene (TCL1) can cause particular types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. A team at the University of California Los Angeles, led by Michael Teitell, M.D., Ph.D., and collaborators at Harvard Medical School, The Rockefeller University and the National Institutes of Health have been studying this gene and its role in the development of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma (B-NHL).

Using cancer cell samples from lymphoma patients, Dr. Teitell and his colleagues discovered that abnormal TCL1 expression is a frequent abnormality in B-NHL. The researchers then engineered mice to aberrantly express the TCL1 gene and those mice developed B-NHLs at a very high rate, within the germinal centers of lymphoid tissues, such as lymph nodes and the spleen, where B cells normally develop.

Further, the researchers determined that these lymphomas only arise when the TCL1 abnormalities are accompanied by companion genetic defects. The researchers identified several of these, including the Myc oncogene, already known to play a role in causing lymphoma.

This finding is consistent with our current understanding that cancer usually involves defects in more than one critical gene, including defects that activate cancer-causing genes (oncogenes) like TCL1 and defects that inactivate cancer-preventing genes (tumor suppressors).

The researchers will next determine which molecular defects that occur in mouse lymphomas also occur in human lymphomas. The researchers anticipate that one or more newly identified molecules will emerge as valid targets for safe and effective targeted therapies for NHL patients.

The information can also be used to design improved tests for the diagnosis and classification of NHLs so that patients can receive the best possible individualized treatment.

"We are hopeful that these findings will lead to the further development of targeted therapies for certain NHL patients while producing fewer side effects than standard therapies," Dr. Teitell said.

Dr. Teitell is the recipient of a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Scholar Award - a program that provides funding to highly qualified investigators who have demonstrated over a period of not less than five years his or her ability to conduct original research on leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma.

"The goal of the Scholar program is to help advance promising original research with the potential to have the highest impact on blood cancers," said Deborah Banker, Ph.D., the Society's vice president for research communications. "Dr. Teitell's research shows great promise in leading to more effective treatments for NHL patients."

Dr. Teitell said "I am optimistic that ...

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