Lymphocytes and their microenvironment in cancer

Prof. Idit Shachar, Department of Immunology

Prof. Idit Shachar’s research focuses on factors that affect mature peripheral lymphocytes–a subtype of the white blood cells that circulate in the blood, protect the body from disease, and are implicated in both health maintenance and in cancer.  Prof. Shachar and her colleagues recently examined the interaction between lymphocytes and the surrounding microenvironment in the most common type of leukemia in adults, a disease called chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL.  She demonstrated that, in culture of malignant B cells, a surface molecule called CD84 interacts with CD84 in the surrounding cells, inducing survival on both sides. Her work, both in cell culture and in animal models, has demonstrated that when this connection is cut off—by blocking CD84 expression—malignant B cells undergo apoptosis, or programmed cell death.  Prof. Shachar’s work identifies a strategy for future anti-leukemia therapy, based on drugs that would disrupt the communication between leukemia cells and the cells in their immediate surroundings.