T-cell leukaemia: Cancer cells take advantage of 'survival protein'

The overproduction of the BCL-2 protein is due to a defect in the ribosome, the protein factory of the cell. This defect is found in 10% of the pediatric patients with T-cell leukaemia.

Ribosome defects and cancer

“In the past couple of years, it has become clear that ribosome defects play a role in different types of cancer,” explains Professor Kim De Keersmaecker, head of the Laboratory for Disease Mechanisms in Cancer at KU Leuven. “In the case of a ribosome defect, the cells still produce proteins but the balance between their quantities is slightly off, which leads to cancer.”

Professor De Keersmaecker and Dr. Kim R. Kampen, a postdoc in her lab, were able to delineate the cancer promoting function of a specific ribosome defect that has a severe impact on pediatric patients with T-cell leukaemia. The impact of this ribosome defect on T-cell leukaemia has never been elucidated before.

Survival proteins

If a cell is too damaged due to ageing or disease, a specific signal induces cell death. But some proteins – including the protein known as BCL-2 – can put a stop to cell death. Due to a ribosomal defect, some T-cell leukaemia patients produce too


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