Natural Protein May Be Lymphoma's 'Bodyguard'

TUESDAY July 31, 2007 -- Researchers say they've spotted a protein that prevents the body's immune system from recognizing and attacking Hodgkin's lymphoma cells.

A team at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, are now investigating targeted therapies to disable the protein, called Galectin 1, to improve a patient's ability to fight the blood cancer.

"We're excited about this treatment lead," study leader and medical oncologist Dr. Margaret Shipp said in a prepared statement. "We are currently generating antibodies that can neutralize (Galectin 1), and we'd like to fast-track this experimental therapy into clinical trials," she said.

If the treatment approach proves effective, it may help patients with Hodgkin's lymphoma avoid long-term complications -- such as heart damage and the risk of developing a second kind of cancer -- caused by standard treatments that include radiation, Shipp said.

The research was published online July 30 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and is expected to be in an upcoming print issue of the journal.

Almost 8,200 people (most of them young adults) in the United States will be diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma this year, and about 1,070 people will die from this kind of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Shipp believes Galectin 1 may play a role in other kinds of cancers. She noted that a colleague at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina has found that blocking Galectin 1 in mice with melanoma skin cancer enabled the rodents' immune systems to eliminate that malignancy.

Posted: August 2007


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