Researcher Talks: Michelle West on the development of lymphoma

18 Jul 2017

Michelle West talks about her research into how the Epstein Barr virus can trigger the development of certain lymphomas, and what this means for patients.

Michelle is a Professor of Tumor Virology at the University of Sussex. She explains how her Bloodwise-funded research into the Epstein Barr virus could lead to a better understanding in how the virus causes lymphoma.

“I'm interested in studying viruses that are associated with causing cancer. A particular interest of my group is a virus called Epstein Barr virus, which we know causes certain types of lymphoma, which are the cancers that arise in the white blood cells that are within your blood.

“We know that Epstein Barr virus is associated with the development of different lymphomas and they are: Burkitt lymphoma; Diffuse large B-cell lymphoma; Hodgkin lymphoma; and the kind of lymphomas that arise in patients that have a suppressed immune system. So, for example, patients that have had transplants or patients that are HIV-positive.

“We are trying to find out how the virus changes white blood cells from cells that would normally not be cancerous into cells that grow indefinitely, which is the common hallmark of a cancer cell - a cell that grows indefinitely.

“The outcome of our research will be a better understanding of how Epstein Barr virus causes lymphoma, so that we could potentially use different drugs and develop new drugs to treat virus associated lymphomas.

“But it also tells us how lymphoma develops anyway. By looking at how the virus drives lymphoma development it tells you how lymphoma can arise without the virus. This opens up lots of opportunities for future information about how we could treat patients better.

“We're very grateful to Bloodwise for the funding we receive in the lab. Being funded by Bloodwise means that you're part of a community in which patients and patient families are very heavily involved.

“That's really important to us because it makes us understand where the money for our research comes from; it gives us an opportunity to talk to patients and patient families to find out what they want from their fundraising and what our research means to them.”

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