Immune System Kills Potential Lymphomas 'Daily,' Say Researchers

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New research indicates that potential lymphoma may be developing in the human body with alarming frequency but that the immune system plays an active role in eliminating this threat.

A team from Australia’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research report in the journal Nature Medicine that spontaneous, cancerous immune B cells develop in the human body every day, but that the immune system wipes them out before they can become lymphoma.

The researchers regard the development of these spontaneous mutations as part of the normal function of the human body. They determined that when these develop, it is the immune system's T cells that are capable of detecting and killing the mutated cells. This was proven in an indirect way when researchers "turned off" the T cell response in an animal model and found that lymphoma developed at a rapid rate.

These findings are in line with the existing body of knowledge that shows how people with compromised immune systems are at a greater risk of developing lymphomas than people whose immune systems are not compromised.

The next step, according to Associate Professor David Tarlinton, would be a method of spotting pre-cancerous cells in the initial stages of their development, enabling early intervention for patients at risk of developing B-cell lymphoma:

In the majority of patients, the first sign that something is wrong is finding an established tumour, which in many cases is difficult to treat. Now that we know B-cell lymphoma is suppressed by the immune system, we could use this information to develop a diagnostic test that identifies people in early stages of this disease, before tumours develop and they progress to cancer. There are already therapies that could remove these ‘aberrant’ B cells in at-risk patients, so once a test is developed it can be rapidly moved towards clinical use.

Source: WEHI

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