Tetraspanin CD37 protects against the development of B cell lymphoma

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Worldwide, B cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma is the most common hematological malignancy and represents a substantial clinical problem. The molecular events that lead to B cell lymphoma are only partially defined. Here, we have provided evidence that deficiency of tetraspanin superfamily member CD37, which is important for B cell function, induces the development of B cell lymphoma. Mice lacking CD37 developed germinal center–derived B cell lymphoma in lymph nodes and spleens with a higher incidence than Bcl2 transgenic mice. We discovered that CD37 interacts with suppressor of cytokine signaling 3 (SOCS3); therefore, absence of CD37 drives tumor development through constitutive activation of the IL-6 signaling pathway. Moreover, animals deficient for both Cd37 and Il6 were fully protected against lymphoma development, confirming the involvement of the IL-6 pathway in driving tumorigenesis. Loss of CD37 on neoplastic cells in patients with diffuse large B cell lymphoma (DLBCL) directly correlated with activation of the IL-6 signaling pathway and with worse progression-free and overall survival. Together, this study identifies CD37 as a tumor suppressor that directly protects against B cell lymphomagenesis and provides a strong rationale for blocking the IL-6 pathway in patients with CD37 B cell malignancies as a possible therapeutic intervention.

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