Research shows why children with malaria often develop deadly blood cancer
The cancer is most notable in equatorial Africa, which has a region called the “lymphoma belt.” It is ten times more likely that children will develop Burkitt’s lymphoma in this region than in the rest of the world. The area has high rates of malaria, which is a correlation that scientists have studied for 50 years.
The team was led by Michel Nussenzweig, the head of the Laboratory of Molecular Immunology at Rockefeller University and the Zanvil A. Cohn and Ralph M. Steinman Professor. They used mice to study how an enzyme that assists antibodies in fighting malaria can also damage the DNA in such a way that it causes Burkitt’s lymphoma.
"I think of this process as a 'necessary risk,'" Davide Robbiani, the first author of the study and an associate professor in Nussenzweig's lab, said. "The body needs this enzyme in order to produce potent antibodies to fight malaria. But in the process, the enzyme can cause substantial collateral damage to the cells that produce it, and that can lead to lymphoma.”