Medical Research Council - Clinical Services Centre

Danger Signals
08 September 2012

Danger Signals

About one in five people diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a type of blood cancer affecting the lymph nodes [glands] – suffers a relapse after their first course of treatment. If doctors knew which patients were most at risk of the disease re-emerging, they might be able to give a different treatment from the outset. Now, scientists have found that in tissue samples taken from Hodgkin’s patients, the risk of relapse is higher if the cancer cells have short telomeres – the genetic sequence at the chromosome tips that normally shorten in all our cells as we age. In the sample shown here, a cancer cell’s giant nucleus (the largest dyed-blue shape) in the middle of this image has telomeres (stained red) so short they are hardly visible. While in the nucleus of the surrounding, non-malignant cells (smaller blue shapes) the red dots marking normal-length telomeres are easily seen.

Written by Mick Warwicker

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