What is this research looking at?

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia (CLL) cells depend on signals from the B cell receptor (BCR), induced when this receptor recognises and binds specific antigens. However, how binding of specific antigens drives the development and expansion of CLL cells is unclear. Using this fellowship, I will investigate how the interaction with physiological antigens activates BCR signalling and drives transformation of a healthy cell into a leukemic cell.

I will visualise BCR signalling of single CLL cells interacting with membrane-bound physiological antigen, mimicking the physical circumstances of how CLL cells may encounter antigen in a patient, and analyse how efficient physiological antigens are at inducing BCR signalling. In parallel, I will develop a mouse model to investigate how frequent exposure to specific antigens leads to the development of CLL by repeatedly immunising a leukaemia-prone mouse strain with model antigens.

What could this mean for people with leukaemia?

A better understanding of how the interaction with physiological antigens leads to expansion of CLL may drive development of therapies that specifically target this interaction, which will conceivably have less side-effects than current therapies.

"The John Goldman Fellowship marks the start of my path on becoming a world leading CLL researcher. It enables me to start tackling important questions and unravel poorly understood mysteries that surround how CLL develops."

Lead Researcher: Dr Robbert Hoogeboom, Kings College London

Official title of project: Antigen-dependent BCR signalling in the expansion of Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia