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Immune System Fights Blood Cancers on Daily Basis, Researchers Find

Feb 03, 2014 09:05 AM EST
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The immune system fights with cancers on a daily basis, according to a new study.

Melbourne scientists have found that immune cells undergo 'spontaneous' changes every day and these cells could become cancerous if not for the immune system, which detects and kills them regularly. Certain changes in the B cells can lead to B-cell lymphomas or non-Hodgkin's lymphomas.

Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma (NHL) is the cancer of the lymph tissue. Most NHLs start B lymphocyte, or B cell, which is a type of white blood cell. According to National Cancer Institute, some 69,740 people were diagnosed with the cancer in 2013.

The study, conducted by researchers at Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, could lead to tests that could identify people at-high risk for this type of cancer. Researchers discovered the role of immune system in controlling the cancer during their investigation on the development of B-cell lymphomas.

According to Dr Axel Kallies, the research explains why the cancer is so uncommon even though the spontaneous changes occur frequently.

"Each and every one of us has spontaneous mutations in our immune B cells that occur as a result of their normal function," Dr Kallies said in a news release. "It is then somewhat of a paradox that B cell lymphoma is not more common in the population.

"Our finding that immune surveillance by T cells enables early detection and elimination of these cancerous and pre-cancerous cells provides an answer to this puzzle, and proves that immune surveillance is essential to preventing the development of this blood cancer," Kallies added.

During their study on B cell lymphoma, researchers disabled the immune system and found that the cancer started growing faster.

"It seems that our immune system is better equipped than we imagined to identify and eliminate cancerous B cells, a process that is driven by the immune T cells in our body," Kallies said in a news release.

The study is published in the journal Nature Medicine.

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