What drives immune cell activation and cancer in the salivary glands of people with Sjögren’s syndrome?

Disease - Sjögren’s syndrome

Lead applicant - Dr Michele Bombardieri

Organisation - Queen Mary University of London

Type of grant - PhD Scholarship

Status of grant - Active

Amount of the original award - £152,385.56

Start date - 1 July 2016

Reference - 21268

Public Summary

What are the aims of this research?

Immune cells found in the salivary gland of people with Sjögren’s syndrome can sometimes become activated leading to cancer in the salivary glands. The aim of this research is to investigate what causes these cells to become active and why in some patients they can become cancerous.

Why is this research important?

Sjögren’s syndrome is a condition in which a particular type of immune cells, called B-cells, attack the glandular tissues of the body such as salivary and tear glands, inducing inflammation which results in an inability to produce saliva and tears. In 5% of people with Sjögren’s syndrome B-cells give rise to a cancer called lymphoma which forms in the salivary glands. It is currently not well understood why this occurs.

By using new technologies to investigate particular molecules that B-cells produce, called antibodies, it may be possible to determine why B-cells become activated in the salivary glands and what role they play in the loss of saliva, as well as why some B-cells give rise to cancer.

How will the findings benefit patients?

Investigating why B-cells attack the body’s own glands will improve our understanding of Sjögren’s syndrome. In addition, discovering what causes cancer to develop may enable doctors to predict which patients will develop cancer by tracking the B-cells. Ultimately knowing the triggers behind this process may enable us to prevent disease by eliminating these triggers or by making the cells of the immune system unable to recognise them as harmful.