Chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells from bone marrow Discovering genetic clues

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia cells from bone marrow help shed light on the origins of B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders.


Through her B-Cell Lymphoproliferative Disorders Laboratory at Mayo Clinic, Susan L. Slager, Ph.D., and her research team work to identify factors that increase the risk of developing a lymphoproliferative disorder. In particular, the lab focuses on the genetic origins of lymphoma and its precursor conditions.

To help achieve these goals, our lab is identifying both individuals with B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders and families in which multiple members have been diagnosed with B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders. Data from both the individuals and the families are used to screen for medical, lifestyle and genetic factors that may increase the risk of B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders. Our lab also has launched a new study that is especially interested in enrolling people of color and minority populations because of a historical gap in diverse representation in CLL research.

Research has consistently shown that people with at least one blood relative with a B-cell lymphoproliferative disorder are more than two times as likely to develop a B-cell lymphoproliferative disorder than are those without such a family history.

These findings strongly suggest that genetics plays a significant role in the development of B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders. How genetics is influenced by lifestyle and other medical conditions is still unclear, but our work is unraveling some of these genetic clues.

B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders are conditions in the blood involving uncontrolled growth of white blood cells, also called lymphocytes. These conditions include such cancers as multiple myeloma, Hodgkin lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), and such precursor conditions as monoclonal B-cell lymphocytosis.

Lymphoproliferative disorders can originate either in the lymphatic tissues (as in the case of lymphoma) or in the bone marrow (as in the cases of leukemia and myeloma). The disease course and treatment varies widely depending on the type of cancer and other individual factors.

About Dr. Slager

In addition to directing the B-Cell Lymphoproliferative Disorders Lab, Dr. Slager is a professor of biostatistics at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Slager has dedicated her esteemed research career to better understanding various forms of lymphoma, and her findings have helped provide insights about cancer susceptibility and potential new treatment options.