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Title: Elucidating oncogenic mechanisms in human B cell malignancies
Author: Caeser, Rebecca
ISNI:       0000 0004 7652 5209
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This study consists of two pieces of work investigating haematological malignancies; Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) and Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma (DLBCL). Firstly, Pre-B ALL represents the most common paediatric malignancy and despite increasingly improved outcomes for patients, ~ 20% of all patients diagnosed with ALL relapse. Activating mutations in the RAS pathway are common (~50%) and result in hyperactivation of the MAPK pathway. I identified Erk negative feedback control via DUSP6 to be crucial for NRASG12D-mediated pre-B cell transformation and investigated its potential as a therapeutic target. I showed that a small molecule inhibitor of DUSP6 (BCI) selectively induced cell death in patient-derived pre-B ALL cells; with a higher sensitivity observed in relapse pre-B ALL. I also discovered that a high level of Erk activity is required for proliferation of normal pre-B cells, but dispensable in leukemic pre-B ALL cells. In addition, I found that human B cell malignancies can be grouped into three categories that fundamentally differ in their ability to control Erk signalling strength. Secondly, DLBCL is the most common haematological malignancy and although potentially curable with chemotherapy, 40% of patients still succumb from their disease. Recent exome sequencing studies have identified hundreds of genetic alterations but, for most, their contribution to disease, or their importance as therapeutic targets, remains uncertain. I optimised a novel approach to screen the functional importance of these mutations. This was achieved by reconstituting non-malignant, primary, human germinal centre B cells (GC B cells) with combinations of wildtype and mutant genes to recapitulate the genetic events of DLBCL. When injected into immunodeficient mice, these oncogene-transduced GC B cells gave rise to tumours that closely resemble human DLBCL, reinforcing the biological relevance of this system. To screen potential tumour suppressor mutations in this system in a high throughput fashion, I developed a lymphoma-focused CRISPR library of 692 genes recurrently altered in B cell lymphomas. These experiments identified GNA13 as an unexpectedly potent tumour suppressor in human GC B cells and provided new understanding to its mechanism of action. These findings provide novel understanding of the complexity of oncogenic mechanisms in human B cell malignancies.
Supervisor: Hodson, Daniel Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia (ALL) ; Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma ; Oncogenic signalling ; Erk signalling ; CRISPR ; primary human germinal centre B cells