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Building on basics

It's in the Blood

In a way, scientists studying cancer are putting together a puzzle with thousands of pieces and no idea of how many pieces it will take to finish the picture.

Cancer is like that - a complex disease involving millions of cells and the complex signals between them. When a small number of these signals go awry, cells grow out of control or do not die when they're supposed to. The result is one of the more than 100 malignant diseases that we call cancer.

It's a good thing researchers like Joseph Tuscano, an assistant professor of medicine in the Division of Hematology and Oncology at UC Davis Medical Center, likes puzzles. His particular interests are leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma - cancers of the body's blood, bone marrow and immune system cells.

Unlike solid-tumor malignancies like breast or prostate cancer, leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma cause malignant white blood cells to circulate throughout the body in the blood and the bone marrow. More than 100,000 people are diagnosed with these diseases each year. About 60,000 die from them.

Tuscano is particularly interested in B cells - the white blood cells that make up the human immune system - and signal transduction, the study of how chemical messages are sent from one cell to another, passing through the cell membrane and into the nucleus.


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