Two Sisters Help Understand One Disease

Follicular lymphoma evolution better understood after sister study

(RxWiki News) It's well known that cancer can be passed between a donor and recipient during a transplant operation. One such exchange has actually advanced the scientific understanding of lymphoma.

After studying the DNA and white blood cells of two sisters with follicular lymphoma,  researchers have discovered genetic hallmarks that lead to the development of the disease. These findings could lead to methods for better managing this common form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

"Become an organ donor, and you may save many  lives."

Researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute examined the molecular and genetic mutations of both sisters who had developed follicular lymphoma, a slow-growing cancer of the lymphatic system.

One of the women had received a bone marrow transplant and leukocyte (white blood cell) infusion from her sister after being diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). Seven years later, both women developed follicular lymphoma.

David Weinstock, M.D., an assistant professor of medicine at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, led the study. Researchers sequenced the DNA of samples obtained from each sister, along with a frozen specimen of the leukocyte infusion.

His team found that both sisters had identical molecular (BCL2/IGH) rearrangements and the same genetic V(D)J rearrangement. They also discovered 15 mutations that appeared in both lymphomas.

Using a method known as "ultra-deep sequencing," researchers were able to establish that these mutations had been passed from the donor to her sister seven years before the disease became evident.

Both sisters are current in remission after have received standard chemotherapy.

Dr. Weinstock explained, "Currently the only curative approach is stem cell transplantation, but the more we understand about the genetic aberrations that lead to follicular lymphoma, the better we'll be able to manage the disease."

Findings from this case study were presented at the 2011 American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting and Exposition and published Cancer Discovery, the newest journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Review Date: 
December 12, 2011