Translational Research in Lymphoid Malignancies
Excitement surrounds translational research in lymphoid malignancies, cancers that arise from an uncontrolled expansion of white blood cells of the immune system resulting in lymphomas or leukemias. Current research has produced multiple possibilities towards the hope of potential cures in these cancers. My laboratory research is primarily focused on chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common adult leukemia in the Western world, with an estimated 20,110 new cases and 4,660 deaths for the year 2017 in the United States of America alone.
CLL is derived from a B lymphocyte, a cell that normally produces antibodies that fight infections in the body. Individual B cells generally do not live long and typically make up a small fraction of white blood cells. However, in CLL, a single B cell abnormally begins to grow uncontrollably, resulting in a population of identical B cells, or a clonal expansion. This CLL clone grows and expands until it eventually makes up the majority of white blood cells. Because CLL is clonal, all the leukemic cells make the same antibody molecule.
Research by my lab and others have demonstrated that the characteristics of the unique antibody molecule found in individual CLL patients is key to understanding this disease. Furthermore, interfering with the signaling pathway downstream of this antibody in CLL cells leads to their elimination. While drugs that interfere with this pathway have provided some outstanding clinical responses in CLL, they have not proven to be curative. Therefore, my laboratory is undertaking further translational research into other mechanisms and cell types found in the leukemia microenvironment to aid in the treatment of CLL and other lymphoid malignancies.