Receptor picks out aggressive leukemia

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is the most common form of leukemia and is diagnosed by the abnormal number of B cells (a type of white blood cells) in the blood. However, there are few markers that can predict its prognosis--the outcome of the disease for the patients. In a presentation at FASEB 2012, a team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) talked about a possible marker on the surface of the cells.

CLL can be indolent, slow to progress and not in need of immediate treatment (known as the 'watch and wait' approach), or it can be aggressive and need action straight away. The researchers found that expression of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs, or receptors involved in signaling between cells) on the surfaces of B cells are different in healthy people and in people with indolent or aggressive CLL. In particular, levels of a GPCR called vasoactive intestinal polypeptide receptor 1 (VIPR1) were 700 times higher on B cells in aggressive CLL.

"The expression of particular GPCRs is disease stage-specific, and thus this profile, or perhaps individual GPCRs, are potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets for CLL," said Paul A. Insel, professor of pharmacology and medicine at UCSD, in a release. "GPCRs are attractive targets since they are expressed on the cell surface and vary in their expression in different tissues."

Using VIPR1 as a biomarker could help doctors select the patients needing immediate treatment, as well as leading to a potential new treatment approach. The researchers are also looking at GPCRs in other diseases, including other forms of cancer.

- read the press release
- see the abstract