Leukemias and Lymphomas Come From Normal Blood Cells
This article was inspired by a paper I read as graduate
student. I was fascinated by the observation that leukemia and lymphoma cells
could be matched to a specific type of normal cell, and that they retained some
of the functions of the normal cells. As an immunologist we use leukemia and
lymphoma cells from patients to study the functions of normal cells and to
develop specific treatments for these types of tumors. I’m happy to share these
ideas with you and I hope that my article provides you with some useful and
valuable information. Please let me know if you find the information useful or
if you have any comments or suggestions for future topics you would like to
Cancers of the cells of the blood and immune system are
called leukemias or lymphomas depending on where and in what kind of cell they
originate. Leukemias originate in stem cells in the bone marrow, while
lymphomas originate in mature cells in peripheral tissues such as lymph nodes.
Leukemias and lymphomas arise from normal cells at a certain stage of
maturation or differentiation. The leukemia and lymphoma cells retain many of
the characteristics of the normal cells from which they are derived. The cells’
lineage, the kind of normal cell it started as, can tell us what kind of
prognosis to expect. In some cases the cells’ physical and molecular
characteristics can form the basis of specialized treatments aimed at one or
more of these characteristics.
Where Do Blood Cells Come From?
Blood and immune cells are produced in the bone marrow by
hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs). The diagram of blood cell development looks
like a family tree. HSCs are self-renewing; that is, they make more of
themselves so you don’t run out. There are two major lineages of blood cells:
lymphoid and myeloid. The lymphoid lineage gives rise to T cells, which develop
in the thymus, and B cells, which develop in the bone marrow. The myeloid
lineage gives rise to all the other kinds of blood cells: granulocytes, monocytes,
Red Blood Cells (RBCs, erythrocytes), and platelets. After T cells and B cells
reach maturity they meet again in lymph nodes where they form germinal centers.
B cells develop further into plasma cells that make antibodies.