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IMAGE: Masitinib (colored in red) binds and inhibits the activity of LYN (pink), FYN (blue) and BLK (yellow). view more 

Credit: E. Oricchio/EPFL

Non-Hodgkin lymphomas are cancers that affect white blood cells of the immune system called B-lymphocytes or B cells. Like cells in all cancers, the B cells begin to grow out of control, creating tumors in the lymph nodes, spleen or other tissues. In 2010 alone, it was estimated that non-Hodgkin lymphomas caused 210,000 deaths worldwide.

One of the driving forces behind non-Hodgkin lymphomas is the over-activation of a receptor on the surface of B cells. This receptor normally stimulates the growth of B-cells only when it is needed, but in non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the growth signal is constantly on, making B-cells grow uncontrollably.

To block this signal, recent clinical studies have focused on inhibiting the activation of the B-cell receptor as a treatment for non-Hodgkin lymphoma patients, but with variable success. For example, a drug called ibrutinib has been tested in clinical trials to treat an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). Ibrutinib blocks the enzyme BTK (Bruton’s tyrosine kinase), which is involved in maturing and activating B cells as part of the

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