UC San Diego For long chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells are known to survive and thrive in their own innate wiles and also by seeking help along with support from host cells in the surrounding environment. Researchers from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine and the Moores UCSD Cancer Center have laid hands on a probable relationship that can boost aggressive leukemias and lymphomas.

The cells assembling around CLL cells in the lymph nodes, spleen and bone marrow are together referred to as the microenvironment. These cells supposedly secrete factors safeguarding CLL cells dying. The research aimed to analyze the B-cell activating factor or BAFF protein apparently produced in increased levels by ‘nurselike cells’ in the CLL microenvironment. It seems that nurselike cells are a subset of blood cells in CLL patients and benefit cancer cells to keep apoptosis or natural cell death at bay.

“We found that BAFF can upregulate expression of c-MYC in CLL cells and that patients who have CLL cells with high levels of c-MYC have aggressive disease. These findings may lead to improvements in our ability to treat patients with CLL, either by blocking the effect of BAFF on CLL cells or inhibiting the signaling pathways triggered by BAFF that can lead to upregulation of MYC,” remarked Thomas J. Kipps, MD, PhD, Evelyn and Edwin Tasch Chair in Cancer Research, Professor of Medicine, Deputy Director of Research Operations at the Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center and lead investigator.

It was noted that BAFF interacts with a gene associated to leukemogenesis, the development of leukemia called as c-MYC. Generally MYC genes may provide aid in managing cell proliferation. But when it is upregulated or elevated due to mutations, c-MYC supposedly enhances more aggressive leukemias and lymphomas. Experts were apparently unable to examine the degree this relationship influences CLL.

The research is published online in The Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.