Origins of Aggressive Childhood Lymphoma Found

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The origins of a particularly aggressive type of childhood lymphoma have been discovered, which could pave the way for new drugs that can prevent the disease from reoccurring after treatment.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge found that anaplastic large cell lymphoma (ALCL) is caused by a genetic fault in thymus-based stem cells. This fault prevents treatment drugs from being effective against cancer "stem cells," even though the drugs may kill cancer cells that have migrated to different parts of the body. If the cancer stem cells are still present, researchers explained, this sets the stage for relapse - even if treatment appears to be successful.

"We now have a fuller understanding of the origins of this type of lymphoma and the pivotal role that corruption of the immune system plays in its spread to different sites around the body," said Dr. Suzanne Turner, study author and lecturer in the Department of Pathology at the University of Cambridge.

'Less toxic drugs' may be on the horizon

As an aggressive blood cancer, ALCL tends to show up in the lymph nodes, skin, liver and lungs - and it mostly affects children and young adults.

While chemotherapy can be effective against ALCL, it can be "particularly grueling" for children, explained Dr. Matt Kaiser, Head of Research at cancer charity Bloodwise, the organization that sponsored the research.

Long-term effects of the cancer drugs that treat ALCL can include infertility, heart disease or secondary cancers.

Given the study's findings, however, treatments that offer a long-term cure may be possible.

"Greater understanding of this lymphoma will enable the development of more effective and less toxic drugs that allow every child to live a normal life after treatment," Kaiser said.

The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Source: News Medical

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