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Deficient 'Scout Cells' Causes Cancer in Transplant Patients

According to a new study, a serious form of cancer that arises in a few transplant patients indicates the weakening of cells that normally serve as ‘scouts’ for the immune system.

// The cancer is caused by a herpes virus, the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is usually kept under check by the immune system. In people whose immune system is compromised, the control is lost and the transplanted organ may be rejected. The EBV infects more than 90 percent of Americans.

The cancer, called post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD), arises only in some transplant patients, and doctors don’t know why.
,br. This study, led by Ohio State University (OHU) scientists, begins to answer that question.
.,
The findings are published in the August issue of the American Journal of Transplantation.
<,br> "We've identified a mechanism that may explain why some patients develop PTLD and others don't," says study leader Anne M. VanBuskirk, assistant professor of surgery and an OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher.

"If we can understand the mechanism, perhaps we can discover how to prevent this type of cancer in transplant patients."
The incidence of this cancer varies according to the organ transplanted, occurring in 1 to 2 percent of kidney transplant patients and in up to 20 percent of bone marrow and lung transplant patients. The disease usually arises within six months to a year after transplantation, and it can have a 70- to 80-percent mortality rate.

The study by VanBuskirk and her colleagues examines two types of immune cells: cells that act as scouts – scientists call them antigen-presenting cells – and memory T cells.

Scout cells detect the presence of viruses and other invaders and alert the immune system to the infection. Memory T cells are immune cells that have fought an earlier infection and remain ready to respond quickly should that infection occur again.


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