Molecular Epidemiology to Detect Tumor Precursors in Children at Risk for Endemic Burkitt's Lymphoma
Burkitt’s lymphoma is the most common childhood cancer in Equatorial Africa. We are asking why is this cancer so common and what are the causes of this cancer. One of the reasons scientists think that this cancer is so common in Equatorial Africa is because of malaria. The malaria that occurs in regions where there are many cases of Burkitt’s is the type that occurs year round because the mosquitoes that carry the malaria parasite never die. This means that the children living in these areas are constantly being infected. We think one of the reasons for the high levels of Burkitt’s lymphoma is that this infection with malaria is overstimulating the B cells that ultimately become the cancer. We have set up a study based in Kenya, a country where there are many cases of Burkitt’s lymphoma. The cases of Burkitt’s lymphoma are found in a region where there is a lot of malaria. What is unique about Kenya is that there are also areas where there is very little Burkitt’s lymphoma and very little malaria. This gives us a natural control population so we can study the B cells that might become cancer in children that have a very high risk for developing this cancer and compare to children with a very low risk for this cancer. In this study, we are looking at tumor cell markers in the blood of these children to see if there are differences between these two groups of children. If we can identify these markers, then we will have an idea of how we can prevent this very common and very devastating cancer.