December 1, 2023

How a Virus Transforms Immune Cells Into Cancer

ATL can advance slowly or strongly, but there is no standard treatment for state-of-the-art ATL, and the condition has a high relapse rate after treatment with chemotherapy and antiviral drugs.
The groups results, released today in The Journal of Clinical Investigation, expose that the virus hijacks the activation equipment of T-cells, triggering them to persist at a high level of activation, gradually ending up being malignant.
Co-lead researcher Professor Yorifumi Satou, from Kumamoto University is a virologist studying HTLV-1. He stated: “While only a little percentage of individuals with HTLV-1 viral infections go on to establish adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma, there are approximated to be around five to ten million carriers of the infection worldwide, and in some areas it is endemic– for example, there are around one million cases in Japan.”
Co-lead scientist Dr. Masahiro Ono, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, is an immunologist and cell biologist who brought his knowledge of T-cells to the task. He said: “There is for that reason a great requirement to understand how the infection turns our T-cells against us in the progression to cancer. Our work highlights a key system for this change and supplies us with new directions to look for ways to interfere with the procedure, potentially avoiding the cancer from developing.”
Leukemias are cancers originating from blood or bone marrow cells, identified by large increases in the number of abnormal leukocyte. T-cells are special kinds of leukocyte that are vital for combating off intruders, such as bacteria and infections.
The HTLV-1 infection inserts itself into one kind of T-cell, and, to start with, remains there in a latent state, not releasing any new infection particles or triggering any ill impacts. For lots of such providers of the infection, this never ever changes, but in around 5 percent of carriers, after years of latency the virus reawakens and impacts the T-cells performance.
The group studied more than 87,000 T-cells from virus-free donors, healthy providers of the infection, and clients with ATL. They sequenced the RNA (a simpler form of DNA) from these cells to discover how the infection and the T-cells were communicating.
They revealed that, in individuals who advanced to ATL, HTLV-1 made contaminated T-cells extremely triggered and over-reactive, triggering them to over-produce proteins that keep them proliferating and helping them prevent other parts of the body immune system that would generally eliminate rogue cells.
The team believes that these changes made the overactive T-cells more vulnerable to DNA damage, such as through chemical representatives or radiation, accelerating their shift to a malignant state.
Additional study of the procedures involved, say the authors, will lay the structures for potential new treatment options. Dr. Ono stated: “For example, the persistent activation of T-cells might be stopped by particles that obstruct signaling pathways that tell the cells to trigger. Treatments could target the proteins the activated T-cells create to assist them proliferate.”
Recommendation: “HTLV-1 infection promotes excessive T cell activation and change into adult T cell leukemia/ lymphoma” 15 December 2021, Journal of Clinical Investigation.DOI: 10.1172/ JCI150472.
The study was carried out by the collective team led by Professor Yorifumi Satou from Kumamoto University, Japan, and Dr. Masahiro Ono from Imperial. The collaborative research study groups include the University of Tokyo, Saga University, and Kagoshima University, and medical collaborations consist of hospitals in Kyushu island.

Co-lead scientist Dr. Masahiro Ono, from the Department of Life Sciences at Imperial, is an immunologist and cell biologist who brought his understanding of T-cells to the project. He said: “There is therefore a great requirement to comprehend how the virus turns our T-cells against us in the development to cancer. Our work highlights an essential system for this change and provides us with brand-new instructions to browse for methods to interfere with the process, potentially preventing the cancer from establishing.”
Dr. Ono said: “For example, the chronic activation of T-cells could be halted by particles that obstruct signaling pathways that inform the cells to trigger. Treatments could target the proteins the activated T-cells develop to help them multiply.”

Virus-induced leukemia cells. Credit: Dr. Uchiyama
A worldwide team have mapped how the HTLV-1 infection causes an uncommon leukemia in some people, providing hints on how to stop it from occurring.
The group, led by Imperial College London and Kumamoto University in Japan, utilized single-cell analysis to demonstrate how the virus over-activates T-cells, essential immune cells in our blood, triggering them to turn cancerous.
The rare cancer, called adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL), develops in around five percent of individuals contaminated with the HTLV-1 infection, but only numerous years after initial infection. HTLV-1 contaminates T-cells specifically and changes them into leukemia cells, but the time lag has actually made it extremely hard to identify how this change takes place.