This initial basic science discovery could lead to others that may, in time, allow for new treatments to specifically target these types of lymphoma, said Dr. Mike Teitell, a physician and researcher at UCLAs Jonsson Cancer Center and the lead author of the article, available online at http://www.pnas.org/.
As part of ongoing cancer research, Teitell and UCLA scientists Randolph Wall, Steven Jacobsen, Cindy Malone and their colleagues were investigating how people with AIDS because of their severely depressed immune systems develop certain types of lymphoma, hoping they could pinpoint potential causes of the disease. In one type of lymphoma developed by AIDS patients, called primary effusion lymphoma (PEL), Teitell and his team observed that many of the cells normal genes had been silenced, or turned off. Its not unusual for genes to be silenced in cancer, and, in fact, silenced genes may be the cause of cancer in some cases, Teitell said. Given that, he and his scientific team set out to discover why the genes were silenced in AIDS-related primary effusion lymphoma cases.
In looking at one of the genes that had been silenced, called B29, Teitell and his team found a new kind of gene modification, one seen before only in early mammalian stem cells and in plants and bacteria. The modification, a type of DNA methylation, could be a cause of this type of lymphoma, although more research is necessary to confirm that, Teitell said.
One implication of this finding is that cancers that revert to earlier stages of development may be using this new type of DNA modification to acco
Contact: Kim Irwin
University of California - Los Angeles