Griffith University and University of Bremen researchers are at the helm of a discovery which could lead to a powerful and precise treatment for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, one of the ten most common cancers in the world.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer involving the lymphatic system.

“Although chemotherapies are available to treat non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, severe side-effects and resistance have become an increasing problem, where not all the cancer cells respond,” commented the Australian project leader Dr Thomas Haselhorst, an ARC Future Fellow and Future Research Leader at Griffith’s Institute for Glycomics.

“Antibody therapies are another available treatment but they too can bring unwelcome side-effects and may compromise an already sick immune system further,” Dr Haselhorst said.

“What is needed is a more precise and targeted therapy.”

In non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, important immune systems cells called B cells become cancerous.

“What we have done is a build a special type of molecule which recognises a protein on the cancerous B cell and binds to it very strongly. That hasn’t been done before. That is a major breakthrough,” Dr Thomas Haselhorst said.

The results of this research have been described in a significant publication in the world’s leading chemistry journal Angewandte Chemie (International Edition ).

Professor Sørge Kelm is the German project leader from the University of Bremen.

“We now know for sure that the new molecule, we have designed binds very effectively to the protein on the cancerous blood cells,” Professor Kelm said.

“To have been able to make these high-affinity binding ligands is very a significant advancement.”

The next phase of research will involve coupling the ligand to nanoparticles loaded with anti-cancer drug.

“The ligand could then become a very targeted assassin, killing the sick blood cells. That would require very low quantities of anti-cancer drug and side-effects could be greatly reduced” Dr Haselhorst said.