A university scientist hopes to reveal how a common virus can cause blood cancer after being awarded a research grant.

Michelle West from the University of Sussex has received £225,000 from Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research for a three-year project.

She will be investigating how infection with the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) leads to the development of some of the most common types of lymphoma.

Lymphoma is a blood cancer that appears as a solid tumour most commonly found in lymph nodes of the neck, chest, armpit or groin.

EBV is known to ‘reprogram’ white blood cells, which normally have a life span of weeks, making them immortal and able to multiply rapidly – the hallmark of cancer cells.

Dr West said: “By understanding more about how lymphomas develop, we will be able to inform the design of new treatments.

“The cutting edge DNA examination technology we are using will be able to pinpoint exactly how the virus targets genes in healthy white blood cells and alters their activity to drive cancer development.”

The charity’s research director, Chris Bunce, said: “It is likely that EBV infection affects many different genes connected to growth regulation in healthy cells in order to drive continuous growth and lymphoma development.

“By using state-of-the-art techniques to study new genes and pathways and working out how they are affected by EBV, this exciting project will increase our understanding of how the virus causes lymphoma.”

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