Researchers are still discovering new characteristics of Hodgkin lymphoma, a common form of cancer of the lymphatic system. The malignant cells are derived from white blood cells (B cells), but have lost a considerable part of the B cell-specific gene expression pattern. The phenotype and the characteristics of Hodgkin lymphoma cells are therefore unique. Bjrn Lamprecht and Dr. Stephan Mathas (Max Delbrck Center for Molecular Medicine, MDC, Berlin-Buch and Charit Universittsmedizin Berlin, Germany) have demonstrated the production of interleukin 21 (IL-21) in the tumor cells of Hodgkin lymphoma. IL-21, a signaling molecule (cytokine) of the immune system, promotes the growth of cancer cells and helps them evade immune system detection (Blood*, Vol. 112. N0. 8, 2008, 3339-3347).
Until now IL-21 was thought to be produced only by T cells, another group of immune cells. Blocking IL-21 production could lead to the development of new therapy strategies for Hodgkin lymphoma in the future, according to the researchers in Professor Bernd Drken's laboratory, who collaborated with researchers at the University Tor Vergata, Rome (Italy).
It was not until 1994, some 160 years after Hodgkin's lymphoma (HL) was first described by the British physician Thomas Hodgkin (1832), that using molecular biological methods scientists discovered that the disease originates from the white blood cells, the B cells. They noticed, however, that the malignant Hodgkin/Reed-Sternberg (HRS) cells of Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) exhibit a phenotype and characteristics that are considerably altered. Although HRS cells are derived from B cells, they have lost the expression of most of the B cell genes due to reprogramming.
The research hypothesis of the just-published paper was that the tumor cells, due to the loss of many B-cell specific genes, need alternative signaling pathways to maintain their malignant growth. As Dr. Mathas explained, "Reprogramming can provi
|Contact: Barbara Bachtler|
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres