Acting as judge, jury and executioner against the myriad microscopic hazards that bombard us, the immune system’s diverse army of white blood cells patrols the body. Yet even these protective cells are at risk of cancer. When white blood cell (T and B lymphocyte) cancers arise in tissues such as lymph glands and spleen, they form lymphomas. Here PET scans highlight lymphomas in white (left) and demonstrate their eviction after successful chemotherapy (right; the normal bladder appears as a white sphere in both). Lymphomas, like the cells from which they arise, are highly nuanced. Some are curable while others prove slowly or rapidly fatal. Conventional treatments: chemotherapy, radiotherapy, stem cell transplants and targetted antibodies; aren’t necessarily tailored to the subtleties of each tumour. Lymphoma gene expression profiling is now helping clinicians to deliver more personalised treatment options.
Written by Lindsey Goff