Hodgkin’s Lymphoma: An Environmental Scan

Table of Contents

3.11 Biomarkers

The human immune system produces antibodies through the B lymphocytes that are crucial for overall immune function to protect against foreign invaders including: bacteria, viruses, fungi, toxins, parasites and environmental pollution known as antigens. The process involves the B lymphocytes of the immune system producing a very specific antibody for each antigen and binding to that antigen so that the invader is identified and ultimately destroyed by the immune system. This process happens each time the body is exposed to a new antigen and a memory function exists within the immune system such that after exposure to many invaders, the antibodies provide an on-going protective effect.

Molecular biologists produce certain antibodies such as monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) for the clinical use in diagnosing and treating a number of diseases including lymphomas. Lymphomas are often an excellent type of tumor for this therapy because of the intravascular nature of the tumor, which makes the tumor accessible to drugs given intravenously (Kreitman and Pastan 2006). The objective is to produce enough antibodies to target a particular cell, such as a cancer cell that will interfere with protein synthesis and cause cell death of the cancer cell itself, a process known as apoptosis or ‘cell death’. There are currently 2 approved MAbs, rituximab and alemtuzumab. For example, rituximab is used when a patient’s own immune system will not produce an anti-body for a particular cancer cell or when a cancer cell does not respond to chemotherapy

The RS cells commonly express the antigen CD30. The CD30 antigen was the first identified on the surface of the RS cell. The specific type of antigen produced is particularly important for targeting therapy. Research is currently focused on developing specific antibodies for new treatments targeted for particular antigens. This type of therapy will allow clinician to target the cancer cell directly and move toward what is referred to as ‘personalized therapy’. This will not only target specific cancer cells but is hoped to reduce the effects of treatment caused by more global measures (Böll, Borchmann, and Diehl 2010).