On what scientists found to be a daily basis, “spontaneous” changes in the body’s immune system’s B cells are causing mutations that could lead to cancer — cancers that usually never come to fruition thanks to the work of the body’s T cells.
The recent research comes from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Australia that found given the prevalence of these B cell mutations, it is with “surprising rarity” that B-cell lymphoma, a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, results.
“Each and every one of us has spontaneous mutations in our immune B cells that occur as a result of their normal function,” Dr. Axel Kallies said in a statement. “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 continued.
This cancer, however, becomes more prevalent in those whose immune systems are suppressed and whose killer T cells therefore are not functioning at full capacity.
“As part of the research, we ‘disabled’ the T cells to suppress the immune system and, to our surprise, found that lymphoma developed in a matter of weeks, where it would normally take years,” Kallies said of the research conducted in mice. “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.”
The research team thinks this discovery could lead to an early cancer detection system, before it results in a tumor. If a patient were found to be at risk for these B cells that could cause cancer, therapies already in existence could be used to remove the “aberrant cells,” David Tarlinton, an associate professor, said in a statement.
The researchers published their findings in the journal Nature.