Understanding B cell receptors to help fight cancer

Professor Graham Packham

Professor Graham Packham.


Large numbers of people are affected by B cell cancers – cancers of the blood and the immune system – and while many patients can be successfully treated and recover, others aren’t or will relapse.

Professor Graham Packham leads a large group of researchers at the University of Southampton whose work specialises in studying B cell cancers. Professor Packham is focussing on lymphomas and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL), and tiny proteins found on the surface of cancerous B cells. He and his team are examining these proteins – known as B cell receptors – which they already know play an important role in helping cancer cells grow and survive. Finding a way to block this process could be a successful way of stopping the cancer in its tracks.

The huge piece of lab-based work will centre on understanding more about the biological details of the receptors and will provide important new insights into the critical growth control pathways in B cell malignancies.  

The research is likely to provide new targets for drugs and hopefully lead to more treatment options for patients whose cancer is currently incurable.

Professor Packham said: “Already we have seen been big advances in the past five years with new drugs that have improved outcomes. The hope is that we provide the groundwork for taking a new drug into the clinic or improve the way we use existing drugs.”

For more information on the Southampton CLL group, you can visit the group's Facebook page and Twitter feed.