The 2015 Congress of the European Hematology Association was held in Vienna in June, and I'm starting to see some of the good research that was presented there. EHA is more or less the European equivalent of ASH, the American Society for Hematology. Same goals -- to showcase research that targets blood diseases, including Follicular Lymphoma.
One of the reports I came across was a brief video (under 5 minutes) of Dr. Jessica Okosun from the Barts Cancer Institute in London, who has done a bunch of research on genetic mutations in lymphoma.
In the video, Dr. Okosun describes the research she presented at EHA, "Recurrent mTORC1-activating RRAGC Mutations in Follicular Lymphoma."
RRAGC is a gene that switches on processes that cells require. We see a lot of that lately -- researchers are understanding how all of these different switches are necessary for a cell to work normally, and how cancer happens when those cells don't turn on or turn off the way they are supposed to. As Dr. Okosun says in the video, RRAGC mutation seems to occur in about 20% of Follicular Lymphoma patients, and, from what researchers can tell, in no other types of cancer.
The RRAGC mutation is related to mTORC1 because mTORC1 signals to a cell that it is OK for it to grow. RRAGC is an important part of this pathway because it allows mTORC1 to know that there is enough amino acid in the cell to continue behaving normally. (Amino acids are building blocks of proteins.) So if there isn't enough amino acid, the RRAGC lets the mTOTC1 know that it shouldn't behave normally and grow and divide.
However, the RRAGC mutation allows the mTORC1 to skip that step of making sure it had enough amino acids to grow and divide. And so, the Follicular Lymphoma cells keep growing and dividing when they're not supposed to. And, as we unfortunately know, that's what cancer is.
As Dr. Okosun makes clear, the RRAGC mutation occurs in only a portion of Follicular Lymphoma patients, so understanding this pathway (and eventually finding a treatment that targets it) is not going to help all of us.
However, I get excited about these small pieces -- they give us another piece of the puzzle, and give researchers more to focus on.
It still amazes me that we can know so much about such tiny, tiny things going on in our bodies.