DCU research features on front cover of International Journal of Cancer
A research article by two senior researchers in DCU's School of Biotechnology, Dr Dermot Walls and Dr Sinead Loughran, will feature on the front cover of December's International Journal of Cancer (IJC). The research, which was funded by the Health Research Board and the Irish Cancer Society, will be published on the15 December edition of IJC.
The research pointed at a new target (a protein called Bfl-1) in the Hodgkin's Lymphoma cancer cell against which new therapies could be designed. The problem with this disease is that although quite curable in most patients, the treatment itself can do damage especially to very young patients. This paper points to a new target against which drugs could be designed and could eventually lead to therapies with less side effects in the future.
This article sheds light on the biology of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (HL). HL is a cancer of the lymphatic system and has its origin as a type of white blood cell that starts to grow abnormally. Known as H/RS cells, these malignant cells actually only represent a small fraction of the tumour mass itself, but are critical to tumour development, and researchers strive to understand the molecular defects that make these cells grow out of control.
Dr. Loughran’s work has shown for the first time that a key cell protein called Bfl1, which is known to prolong the survival of a cell, is often present in H/RS cells. By artficially increasing or decreasing the level of Bfl1 in cultured H/RS cells, the cell's tolerance to certain chemotherapeutic agents was seen to be affected accordingly. These findings are the first indication that Bfl1 plays a crucial role in prolonging the survival of some H/RS cells, thus making it a candidate target of interest in future treatments for HL. Although HL has fortunately become a highly curable disease thanks to advances in chemotherapy regimens in recent years, long-term toxic effects due to such treatments in often-young patients is a major concern and can frequently be fatal. The therapeutic challenge that holds significant future promise is to minimize treatment-associated residual disease by developing treatments to target and neutralise specific cell proteins that are responsible for promoting cancer cell survival. Targeting Bfl-1 would be an attractive strategy in this regard, in combination with reduced-dose chemotherapy.
Other HRB-funded research from Dr. Walls’s laboratory has shown that the common herpesvirus Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which is present in the tumour cells of about half of all cases of HL, can stimulate the production of Bfl1 in its host cell.
The current study, which was carried out in collaboration with the University of Birmingham, was funded by the the Health Research Board of Ireland, the Irish Cancer Society, and the DCU Educational Trust (through an Orla Benson award).
The article is entitled ‘Bfl-1 is a crucial pro-survival Nuclear Factor-κB target gene in Hodgkin/Reed-Sternberg cells’. (Int J Cancer. 2011. doi: 10.1002/ijc.25950).