Know someone with Hodgkin lymphoma? Researchers made an incredible connection between this lymphatic cancer and the immune system.
Cancer research is one of the most important research areas of the century. The cases of cancer that people face each year are innumerable, yet the disease and the cure are elusive. It’s like an enemy who has the perfect hiding place and attacks when you least expect it.
The fight against cancer he’s furious, and it looks like investigators have had some victorious battles lately. One of these victories was that of scientists from the London Cancer Research Institute. They have identified a genetic link between the immune system and Hodgkin lymphoma. Read on for the details of the study.
What is Hodgkin lymphoma?
To better understand the research, it can help to know what Hodgkin lymphoma is. It is one of the two types of lymphoma cancer. The second type is non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Are both rare cancers, with Hodgkin being even more rare than non-Hodgkin.
There are only two small differences between Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin. If cancer cells contain Reed-Sternberg cells, then it is classified as Hodgkin’s. If not, it is classified as non-Hodgkin. The second difference is that Hodgkin is a bit more predictable than non-Hodgkin, making it easier to detect early, leading to more successful treatments.
Research is specifically focused on Hodgkin lymphoma. Hodgkin’s disease can be classified into two subtypes. Scientists designate them as classic Hodgkin lymphoma (cHL) and nodular lymphocyte-predominant Hodgkin lymphoma (NLPHL). This research focuses on cHL, which makes sense because it accounts for 95% of Hodgkin lymphoma cases.
If that’s not confusing enough, cHL can be classified into four subtypes:
- Nodular sclerosis (NSHL)
- Mixed cellularity (MCHL)
- Rich in lymphocytes
- Lymphocyte depletion
The research focuses on the first two. NSHL comprises approximately 60% of cHL cases while MCHL comprises approximately 20%.
The lymphatic system
As you may know, cancer begins anywhere in the body where cells start to grow out of control. Lymphoma cancer is, as the name suggests, cancer of the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system is part of the immune system. It is made up of vessels that look a lot like blood vessels. However, instead of carrying blood, they carry a clear, watery fluid called lymph (hence the name of the system).
This liquid is responsible for removing debris, bacteria, and viruses. Think of the lymphatic system as bathing your tissues. The vessels carry lymph throughout the body, and the fluid is filtered through the hundreds of lymph nodes throughout the body.
How cancer affects the lymphatic system
There are two ways that the lymphatic system develops cancer. The cancer could start in the lymph nodes, or the cancer could start elsewhere, break off (called metastasis), and travel to the lymph nodes. According to the American Cancer Society, the last method occurs more than the first.
When lymph nodes are infected with cancer (or other foreign invaders), they swell due to a lymphatic obstruction. This simply means that the lymph cannot leak through the node. Sometimes they can be swollen enough that you can feel them or even see them under the skin. Swelling of the lymph nodes is known as lymphedema.
Lymphoma cancer invades lymphocytes found in white blood cells. There are two types of lymphocytes: B cells and T cells. Hodgkin lymphoma usually affects B cells first.
Where lymphoma can appear in the body
- Bone marrow
- Adenoids / tonsils
- Digestive tube
Lymphoma begins mainly in the upper half of the body, but it is not uncommon for it to occur in the lower half.
Now that you are aware of cancer, you will be able to pursue research more efficiently. We’ll break down all of the research in more detail in the next section.
The investigation and its subsequent progress were carried out by the Cancer Genomics Team from the London Institute of Cancer Research (ICR). The team is led by Professor Richard Houlston, head of the Division of Genetics and Epidemiology. Other members of the group included:
- Dr. Amit Sud, Clinical Academic Professor in Genetics and Epidemiology at ICR
- Dr. Hauke Thomsen, Senior Bioinformatician and Biostatistician
- Dr. Kari Hemminki from the Division of Molecular Genetic Epidemiology of the German Cancer Research Center
There were many other researchers involved, but these four led and supervised the team. The research was first published in Communications from nature Magazine in December 2017.
Although cHL is rare and, in most cases, it is treated successfully. Still, scientists continue to research how to improve treatments, especially for people for whom first-line treatments don’t work. Previous research has shown a well-established connection between the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region and cHL. However, there has not been much research on how genetics influence cancer development.
This research project was started to identify hereditary risk factors for LHc, which are largely unknown. The initial theory of the inherited genetic influence of cHL came from a trend of cHL that runs in families. However, it was strongly influenced by the cases of identical twins who developed LHc.
The researchers believed that this study would be highly successful due to recent studies made up of data from the genome-wide association studies (GWAS). The next section will give you information about GWAS.
The team used data from the Data comes from three different studies in the GWAS; one was a new study from the UK National Study of Hodgkin Lymphoma Genetics (NSHLG) and the other two from two pre-existing studies in the GWAS database.
The subjects of your data were of European descent, which seems a bit limited at first glance. Nevertheless, cancer It disproportionately affects people of European origin, so this is a good dataset to use. In all, the scientists analyzed data from more than 22,000 subjects. This was one of the largest research studies ever conducted for cHL.
A brief description of GWAS
GWAS is essentially a database of research, studies, statistics and other information from which researchers can extract data. The purpose of this database is to have a centralized location from which researchers around the world can extract or pool data. This leads to a much more efficient way to investigate any genome-related project.
GWAS began with the completion of the Human Genome Project. This was one of the greatest successes in the history of modern science. The researchers set out to map every gene in the human body (collectively called the human genome, or simply genome). The project took 13 years to complete, from 1990 to 2003.
The project was an international effort. His team included researchers and scientists from the United States, France, Germany, China, the United Kingdom, and Japan. By creating a blueprint for the DNA sequencing of the entire human body, this project advanced science exponentially.
The project and decades of research have become a publicly evaluable database for scientists to use. Pooling data from around the world makes it much easier to conduct research without setting up individual projects, which could take years. The data is already there, you just need to analyze it and look for trends.
GWAS and the Human Genome Project have been more successful than anyone would have expected. It has even ushered in an era of personalized medications and treatments. The database continues to grow with each successful research project that follows from it.
The results of the study
After analyzing the data, the researchers discovered a link between genetic mutations and cHL. In fact, they identified six new single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) at locations without HLA risk. SNPs are single position variations in a DNA sequence. For science to consider it a SNP, more than 1% of the population must have a variance in this position.
These SNPs cause transcription factor binding, which essentially means that they can connect and possibly disable adjacent genes. The significance of this is that five of these six newly identified SNPs are attached to cells that have previously been associated with the development of cHL or B cells. This leads scientists to the conclusion that these SNPs are important risk factors for the cHL.
Final thoughts on the study and Hodgkin’s lymphoma
The GWAS has been a catalyst for a great deal of new research and etiologies. This study is a great example of this. It provided important new information on the development of cHL that could be used in the future to screen people at high risk and possibly even provide preventive treatment.
Cancer research is incredibly important these days, so any research like this is welcome in the medical field. Hopefully, the GWAS will continue to push for new developments that will improve the lives of everyone, especially those fighting cancer. The future of human health depends on it.