It is now widely accepted that lymphomagenesis is a multistep transformation process. A number of genetic changes and environmental and infectious factors contributing to the development and malignant progression of B-cell lymphoproliferative disorders are well documented. Reciprocal chromosomal translocations involving the immunoglobulin loci are a hallmark of most mature B cell lymphomas and lead to dysregulated expression of proto-oncogenes (c-myc) important for cell proliferation or genes involved in cell cycle progression (cyclin D1), differentiation block (bcl-6, PAX5) and cell survival (bcl-2, NF-κB). In addition, genetic alterations that inactivate tumor suppressor genes (p53, p16) have been frequently detected in some lymphoma tissues. Many of these genes are normally regulated by signals from the B cell antigen receptor. The high prevalence of bacterial and viral infection in lymphoma patients supports the hypothesis that infectious agents may play a contributory role in the development and evolution of B cell lymphoproliferative disorders by either directly inducing polyclonal B cell hyperactivation (EBV, HCV), or providing a chronic antigenic stimulus (EBV, HCV, HBV, H. pylori), or mimicking B cell antigen receptor signaling (EBV, HCV, HHV8), although whether these are causative factors or they are secondary to genetic changes in lymphomagenesis remains to be defined. Stimulatory signals from reactive T cells, local cytokines and growth factors can also contribute, to some extent, to the progression of transformation. Modulation of B cell antigen receptor signaling therefore emerges as a potentially powerful strategy for controlling the growth of certain B cell lymphomas.
Keywords: Lymphoma, B lymphocyte, transformation, proto-oncogene, tumor suppressor gene, B cell antigen, receptor signaling, bacterial and viral infection, anti-B cell antibody