It was previously assumed that leukaemic B-cells receive their activation signals from the receptor's interaction with substances produced in the body. However, Jumaa's experiments have revealed that receptors on the surface of leukaemia cells constantly interact with each other: "Neighbouring receptors of the same cell appear to activate each other, sending signals that cause immune cells to convert into cancer cells. How this recognition takes place requires further study," the researcher stated.
With the ERC funding, Prof Jumaa aims to continue his observations in order to gain a better understanding of the immunobiology of CLL lymphocytes in connection with signalling from the B-cell receptor. In addition to transgenic animal models, Prof Jumaa's group works on a special cell line, developed for the purpose, in which receptors can be controlled and characterised individually.
"A profound understanding of the B-cell receptor signal path may help us to design molecules that suppress interaction between receptors, enabling us to stop cancer-promoting signals," stated Jumaa, describing a possible clinical use of his research. Such a therapy could be used at an early stage of the disease with reduced side effects.