The Wild Card in Lymphoma

Lymphoma genetic mutations and protein CARD11 cataloged

(RxWiki News) Cancer in one person can behave very differently than it might in another person. That’s because each person’s genes are unique. So some new cancer treatments can target the individual’s unique genetic fingerprint. Scientists are exploring possible new targets in lymphoma.

Researchers are looking at genetic errors that cause a protein called CARD11 to go into overdrive. This protein’s job is to alert the body that infection is present. The body’s soldiers – white blood cells – are produced to fight off the infection. Mistakes in DNA coding can cause CARD11 to switch and stay in the “on” position.

The result is an explosion of white blood cells which leads to cancer – in this case a blood cancer called lymphoma, which affects about 75,000 Americans every year.

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Investigators at Johns Hopkins Medicine have tested and cataloged the genetic mutations involved in lymphoma, a cancer that attacks the lymphatic system.

"Our goal was to correlate various mutations with potential to promote lymphoma," said Joel Pomerantz, PhD, an associate professor in the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine's Institute for Cell Engineering.

To explore what genetic mutations cause CARD11 to go crazy, Dr. Pomerantz and his team made copies of the protein so that it could mutate away. Defective copies were used to produce the mutant proteins and assess how those molecules worked to switch on CARD11.

These findings can now be compared to new research about the role of CARD11 in human lymphomas.This protein is part of what’s called the NF-kB signaling pathway – a certain communication channel. Certain cancer treatments already target this pathway.

What all this means is that one day doctors could test for a specific genetic error in lymphoma patients, and they could receive exactly the right type of treatment that would be most effective for them. This is the promise of personalized therapy.

Findings from this work were published in the January 2013 issue of Molecular and Cellular Biology.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Cancer Society and the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering.

Review Date: 
January 2, 2013