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Understanding how lymphoma cells hide from the immune system

Dr Francesco Forcini is studying a tag found on some lymphoma cells that may stop the immune system from attacking them. The team will see whether targeting these tags could make lymphoma treatments kinder and more effective.

The challenge

Follicular lymphoma and diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) are the two most common types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. While these diseases are treatable, the treatments cause many side effects including vomiting, mouth ulcers, and loss of fertility.

The project

Dr Francesco Forconi and his team want to find better ways to treat these diseases. The team are studying a sugar molecule that acts like a ‘tag’ on the surface of a lymphoma cell, which tells the immune system, the system that protects us against disease, not to attack it. They plan to explore how common the tags are in follicular lymphoma and DLBCL, what their role is in blocking the immune response and to test whether targeting these tags could make lymphoma treatment more effective.

The future

This sugar tag is not found on healthy cells and so finding drugs that target the tag would selectively kill lymphoma cells whilst leaving the healthy cells relatively untouched, helping to create kinder treatments for people with these types of lymphoma.