A small subset of normal white blood cells gives rise to a rare leukemia, study shows

March 1, 2011

New research has identified a small subset of normal white blood cells in the body that gives rise to a rare incurable form of leukemia.

The study, led by investigators at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James), shows that large granular lymphocyte can occur in a small subset of called NKT . NKT cells share features of immune cells called T lymphocytes and features of immune cells called natural killer (NK) cells.

The discovery, published online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, arose from studies investigating why a mouse strain engineered to overexpress interleukin-15 often develops large granular lymphocyte leukemia, a disease more common in Asia than the United States, and it points to new ways to prevent the malignancy.

The researchers show that, in mice and in humans, the novel subset of NKT cells responsible for large granular lymphocyte leukemia are marked on their surface by a protein called NKp46. Only small numbers of these cells are present in mice and in humans. The study further shows that overexpression of interleukin-15 can drive these cells but not others to become leukemic.

"These novel NKT cells represent a small white-blood-cell population in normal mice or healthy humans, but they have the potential to develop into large granular lymphocyte leukemia under certain circumstances, such as a high interleukin-15 environment," says first author Jianhua Yu, a research scientist with the OSUCCC – James.

"Our work suggests that targeting interleukin-15 signaling and NKp46 might offer a new way to prevent this leukemia as we learn more about who is susceptible," notes principal investigator Dr. Michael A. Caligiuri, director of Ohio State's Comprehensive Cancer Center and CEO of the James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. "In fact, we show that using an antibody to block interleukin-15 prevents large granular lymphocyte leukemia development in this mouse model."

Explore further: Study: How some cancers become leukemia

Related Stories

Breed of mice created for leukemia study

August 22, 2006

A study by U.S. cancer scientists at Ohio State University shows a new strain of mice offers the first real animal model for an incurable chronic leukemia.

Knocking Out Survival Protein Could Aid Leukemia Treatment

April 23, 2007

An effective way to fight leukemia might be to knock out a specific protein that protects cancer cells from dying, a new study shows. The findings suggest that a drug that can block this “survival protein” might on its ...

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.