Understanding how lymphoma cells hide from the immune system

Lead researcher - Dr Francesco Forconi, University of Southampton
Investigating surface Ig glycans of follicular and diffuse large B-cell lymphomas for diagnosis, prognosis and therapy
Amount awarded: £249,482
Award start date: 01 Nov 2018
Award duration: 3 years (36 months)

Follicular lymphoma and diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) are the two most common types of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. While these diseases are possible to treat, it’s rare that they will be cured. There are also many side effects to treatment like vomiting, mouth ulcers, and loss of fertility. Dr Forconi and his team therefore want to find better ways to treat these lymphomas. 

The team are exploring a sugar molecule that acts like a ‘tag’ on the surface of a lymphoma cell, which tells the immune system not to attack it. They plan to explore how common the tags are in follicular lymphoma and DLBCL, what their role is in blocking the immune response, and to test whether targeting the tags can make lymphoma treatment more effective. Because the sugar tag is not found on healthy cells, finding drugs that target the tag would selectively kill lymphoma cells whilst leaving the healthy cells relatively untouched, making treatments better and kinder than current options.