New treatment for B cell lymphoma
Researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College are investigating a new treatment for a particular type of B cell lymphoma , that is with protein EZH2 mutations. The results so far have been promising and it seems that this new treatment could benefit a broader set of patients with lymphoma.
The study, which was published in Cancer Cell, points out that this particular subtype of B-cell lymphoma responds to EZH2 inhibitors, which target a key molecules in B lymphocytes. Weill Cornell Medical College’s Dr. Ari Melnick, the study’s lead investigator, says that follicular lymphoma may respond better to combination therapy formed of EZH2 inhibitors and another targeted therapy. He also said that this treatment is a non-toxic alternative to chemotherapy for a third of diffuse large B-cell lymphomas. Dr. Melnick believes that this new treatment could help patients with a wide range of lymphoma subtypes since both represent about 75% of all lymphomas in adults. “Researchers had thought EZH2 inhibitors would only help patients with a mutation EZH2 in their genes, which represents a small subset of lymphoma patients. What we found is that the majority of lymphomas turn out to be dependent on normal EZH2, not just mutated EZH2”.
Because there was little knowledge about the role of EZH2 in B cells, the researchers decided to conduct the study in order to understand the function of both normal and mutated EZH2 in B cells. B cells are part of the immune system (along with other cells such as T cells, macrophages, etc.), and their function is to produce antibodies. Antibodies are produced when the body comes in contact with microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, parasites) and their role is to destroy them. What the researchers found was that EZH2 is necessary for the immune system to produce one of the strongest antibody subtypes, which are the germinal center B-cells. These B cells are highly efficient because they divide extremely fast and generate specific antibodies to quickly eradicate the infection from the body.
Dr. Melnick said that most B-cell lymphomas derived from these germinal center B-cells and that the reason for this is that they have rapid division cycle which increases the number of causes genetic mutations. It seems that EZH2 stimulates B cell division and, in addition, has another important function in the immune system namely that it regulates B cell antibody production. Now, researchers want to combine EZH2 inhibitors with BCL2 inhibitors so that the treatment has a much greater effect.