Genetic Variation in Apoptotic Genes and Susceptibility to Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL) is a cancer of lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell that moves throughout the body as part of its role in immune defense. As a complex disease with both environmental and genetic factors contributing to its development, NHL is incurable and the fourth highest cause of cancer deaths in Canada. Johanna Schinas aims to identify the genetic factors contributing to NHL susceptibility. She is focusing on the role of apoptosis which is a natural process of cell death triggered by genes and carried out by the immune system. When an immune cell originally meant for destruction escapes apoptosis, it becomes an ideal environment for further changes that can cause progression to malignant cancer. By searching for DNA variants in apoptosis genes that are associated with the development of lymphoma, she hopes to identify markers of genetic susceptibility to lymphoma. This will lead to not only a better understanding of the molecular basis of this cancer, but also assist in the design of effective surveillance programs for at-risk individuals.