Errant immune cells undergo spontaneous changes that could lead to cancer

The immune system typically eliminates the spontaneous mutation of its own cells into cancerous cells, thereby making B-cell lymphomas very rare.

By Ananth Baliga

BUNDOORA, Australia, Feb. 3 (UPI) -- Immune cells have shown the tendency to undergo spontaneous changes making them cancerous, with the onus being on the immune system to kill these cells before they lead to cancer.

Researchers at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne, Australia, found that the immune system was responsible for eliminating cancerous immune B cells in their early stages, before they developed into B-cell lymphomas, also known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas.


They believe this discovery, published in the journal Natural Medicine, could lead to the development of early-warning tests and help identify patients with a high risk of developing lymphoma.

“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,” said lead researcher Dr. Axel Kallies.

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According to Dr. Kallies, everyone experiences mutations in our immune B cells, but at the same time the occurrence of B cell lymphomas among people is rare. He credits the immune system's surveillance and elimination of these cancerous cells for the low incidence of such cancers.


The researchers chanced upon this discovery when they we investigating how B cells change when lymphomas develop. When they suppressed T cells, they found that lymphoma developed in a matter of a few weeks, when it normally takes years to develop.

“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,” said Dr. Kallies.

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[Walter and Eliza Hall Institute] [Natural Medicine Journal]

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