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Failure of 'scout cells' may lead to cancer in transplant patients

Columbus , Ohio A serious form of cancer that occurs in some transplant patients may arise because cells that normally serve as scouts for the immune system become weakened, a new study suggests.

The cancer is caused by Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a herpesvirus that infects more than 90 percent of Americans but is ordinarily kept under control by the immune system. That control can be lost in people whose immune system is suppressed to prevent rejection of a transplanted organ.

The cancer, called post-transplant lymphoproliferative disorder (PTLD), arises only in some transplant patients, but doctors don't know why.

This study, led by Ohio State University scientists, begins to answer that question.

The findings are published in the August issue of the American Journal of Transplantation.

We've identified a mechanism that may explain why some patients develop PTLD and others don't, says study leader Anne M. VanBuskirk, assistant professor of surgery and an OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher.

If we can understand the mechanism, perhaps we can discover how to prevent this type of cancer in transplant patients.

The incidence of this cancer varies according to the organ transplanted, occurring in 1 to 2 percent of kidney transplant patients and in up to 20 percent of bone marrow and lung transplant patients. The disease usually arises within six months to a year after transplantation, and it can have a 70- to 80-percent mortality rate.

The study by VanBuskirk and her colleagues examines two types of immune cells: cells that act as scouts scientists call them antigen-presenting cells and memory T cells.

Scout cells detect the presence of viruses and other invaders and alert the immune system to the infection. Memory T cells are immune cells that have fought an earlier infection and remain ready to respond quickly should that infection occur again.

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Contact: Darrell E. Ward
Darrell.Ward@osumc.edu
614-293-3737
Ohio State University
8-Aug-2006


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