B-cells are part of the body’s immune system that protect against pathogens like harmful bacteria or viruses. They are created mainly in the bone marrow (some also in the lymph system) and circulate the body’s fluids (bloodstream and lymph fluid).
If a B-cell comes across a pathogen and its receptor matches the pathogen’s antigen binding site, the B-cell will lock onto the pathogen ensuring it does not replicate and won’t infect other cells. Binding to the pathogen also signals other immune system cells to come destroy the invader.
To check if copies of the same pathogen are in other areas of the body, the B-cell will create and send antibodies throughout the body’s fluid to attach to the replications of the original pathogen, immobilizing them and tagging them for pickup.
(Image source: CellCartoons)
How are CLL Cells Different from Normal B-cells?
Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) cells differ from normal B-cells because part of the cell’s DNA is deleted or changed, which may cause the cell to be unable to work well and avoid cell death. This allows the ineffective cell to keep multiplying. In most CLL cases, the replication of the mutated B-cell happens slowly.
How did my B-cell’s Instructions Become Damaged?
Reasons the B-cell's chromosome instructions may become damaged to turn into CLL are believed to be from either a virus (and the body's immune system was too weak to destroy the virus-infected B-cell allowing it to multiply), from high and chronic amounts of excess oxidative stress, or the patient may have inherited damaged DNA.
What Can be Done to Destroy the Mutated B-cells (CLL)?
Thanks to recent medical advances, new non-chemo treatment options are designed to destroy the CLL cells and leave most of the body’s healthy cells alone (see here for information about non-chemo treatment options for CLL patients). Although these are not yet a cure for CLL, for many patients they help limit the progression of the disease and help patients achieve multiple-year remissions (time frame in which there are little to no signs/symptoms of CLL).
The body also naturally produces cancer-killing T-cells. In diseases like CLL, the T-cells may become exhausted and not work effectively to kill the cancer (for tips on how to boost T-cell function see here: Support Cancer-Killing T-cells with Antioxidants). CAR T-cell therapy increases and enhances the patient’s cancer-killing T-cells (currently in clinical trials for CLL). It has shown promising data to help reduce CLL cells and for some patients, it has cured their CLL. For more information about CAR T-cell therapy and joining clinical trials see here: What is CAR T-cell Therapy?
about the author
Megan joined HealthTree as a Community Coordinator for CLL in 2022. She is the daughter of a blood cancer patient and has found a passion for helping support patients and caregivers to advance research for their cure and improve their quality of life. In her spare time, she loves to be around family, sew, and cook.