B cell receptor is involved in the normal B cell development and immunity but also in supporting the growth and survival of malignant B cells in patients with B cell leukaemias or lymphomas. The expression of this receptor on the surface of the B cells is important for the immune response. It triggers antigen-antibody responses and B cells differentiation into plasma sells and membrane B cells. 

B cells activation is mediated by activation of membrane-proximal kinases like spleen tyrosine kinase (STK), Bruton tyrosine kinase (BTK) and PI3K. In the recent years there are inhibitors which are developed to target these kinases as part of the treatment of leukaemias and lymphomas. For example, some of the approved inhibitors are: Ibrutinib (BTK inhibitor) and Idelalisib (PI3K inhibitor). However, these inhibitors are not specific to tumour cells only and they can influence other processes in the healthy cells. Currently there are in development more specific inhibitors. 

The treatment responses to these inhibitors can vary depending on the B cell receptor signalling and its interaction with the microenvironment. Also the genetic background and the degree of genetic instability could activate mechanisms which could lead to resistance to these drugs. 

The role of B cells in solid tumours is not established yet but B cells are discovered in solid cancers like breast, cervical, ovarian, non-small-cell lung cancer and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Tumour-infiltrated B cells and macrophages both express BTK and are targeted by BTK inhibitors. 

While the kinases involved in B cell receptor activation are promising target more research is needed to develop specific inhibitors that will target cancer cells.

Source: Targeting B cell receptor signalling in cancer: preclinical and clinical advances

Author: Olga Peycheva

Olga is a clinical research professional who has been working in clinical research since 2005. She has extensive experience in clinical research in Eastern and Western Europe. 

Originally published on 3 Sep 2018