New Treatment Technique Developed to Seek and Destroy the B cell Lymphomas

The B cells are responsible for making antibodies and protect our body from disease causing germs. They are produced in the soft, spongy central section of bones called the bone marrow and mature in the organ spleen. These cells are attacked by malignant cancer cells in older adults and people suffering from compromised immune system such as AIDS.

Nearly 70,000 people are diagnosed with B cell lymphomas or cancer in these cells, each year in the United States. According to the American Cancer Society, 22,000 patients loose their lives from this ailment. Though the drug rituximab is effective at treating the disease, it poses threat to the healthy tissues surrounding the tumor.

Since B cells have to hunt down the threats of the body, they circulate throughout the bloodstream. When such cells are affected with cancer, they have to seeked and destroyed. But the challenge is to spot them with precision and send a cancer drug inside the B cells tumor to destroy it.

Researchers from Scripps Research Institute have recently (8th June 2010), discovered an effective mechanism to meet this challenge. Results of their study are published in the June 10, 2010 edition of the journal Blood. This article tries to gain further insight on their research.

What the Research Comprised of:

Glycoproteins are sugar decorated proteins molecules. It has been challenging to understand the structure of these molecules and apply the knowledge in pharmacy. The lead researcher of this research study, Professor James Paulson, is an expert in this field and has been trying to find new ways of manipulating these molecules and develop an effective anti-cancer drug.

The research was based on the fact that B cells have a unique receptor on their surface which can recognise certain sugars of glycoproteins. The team set out to develop a compound with two different types of molecules in it. One portion of it was a special type of sugar molecule called the CD22 which could be recognized by the receptors of these cells. In this way, the cancerous B cell lymphomas could be identified among other types of cells in the blood stream.

The other portion of the compound was a nanoparticle called liposome stuffed with the well known chemotherapy drug doxorubicin. Placing this drug encapsulated inside the liposome protected the normal cells from getting destroyed by the drug until it reached the B cells cancer tumor. Finally the CD22 sugar molecule was attached with the liposome nanoparticle carrying doxorubicin inside it. Both new and tried-and-true technology were used to combine prepare this compound.

Knowledge Gained from the Research:

The compound was tried on immune-compromised experimental mice infected with B cell lymphoma cells, for a period of 100 days. Five out of the eight mice receiving this treatment survived. B cell lymphomas disease causes tumor in 95 percent cells of the bone marrow. When presence of any such tumor was detected in the surviving mice, none of the tumor cells were found.

The trial was then extended to treat the same disease in humans. Blood samples consisting of three types of malignant B cells namely the hairy cell leukemia, marginal zone lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia. were collected. When this compound was tested on B cell lymphomas, it successfully seeked and destroyed these cells in humans too.

Further research is on to improve the drug. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded the research study.

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