Monday, October 21, 2013

Mission Monday: Meet an LLS-Funded Research in Texas

Dr. Larry Kwak
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) spends millions of dollars every year supporting the work of the best and brightest blood cancer researchers around the world.

Today we introduce you to Larry Kwak, M.D., Ph.D. of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Kwak's work has been sponsored by LLS since 2011. His focus is in two on two areas: lymphoma and myeloma.  Below he describes his current projects that are showing great promise. 

"B cells are a type of white blood cell (called a B lymphocyte) that produces antibodies to identify and neutralize invading pathogens such as bacteria and viruses. The human body has the ability to form millions of different types of B cells each day, and each type has a unique receptor protein (referred to as the B-cell receptor, BCR) on its membrane that will bind to one particular antigen. However B cells can become a tumor just like any other cell. B-cell tumors are known as non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). In this project we will focus on mantle cell lymphoma (MCL), which is one of the rarest of the NHLs and currently has the worst prognosis of all malignant lymphomas. MCL has also own unique antigen receptors. However, we do not know what antigen is recognized by BCR and what the antigen plays a critical role in the biology and clinical outcome of MCL. We believe that B cells chronically stimulated by antigen through their B-cell receptor is one mechanism for causing MCL. The objective of this proposal is to identify the nature of the proteins that bind and provide signals to the MCL through their B-cell receptor. Furthermore, we will study the biological role of B-cell receptor by using patient tumor in a humanized mouse model. Finally, we will analyze the relationship between molecular features of the BCR/antigen and clinical outcomes. We are particularly well prepared to undertake the proposed research, because we have identified candidate antigens. Our preliminary data suggesting that a self-antigen (unlike bacteria and viruses) could be a potential antigen. Second, we have created a unique humanized mouse model system for primary MCL. It is a mouse model that has biologically functioning patient MCL cells that are transplanted. This is the first human primary MCL animal model and should be useful for the biological and therapeutic research of patient MCL cells. Finally, we have a well-established tissue bank and clinical database which characterizes long-term clinical outcome data on each patient in the Department of Lymphoma/Myeloma at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Successful completion of these studies will result in better understanding of the biological and clinical role of the BCR in this disease. This information will be utilized in the development of novel strategies for identifying prognosis markers and for treatment of these lymphomas."

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