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Targeting Aberrant Sialylation to Treat Cancer

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jennifer Munkley, Dr Emma ScottORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


Cell surface carbohydrates (known as glycans) are often aberrantly expressed or found at atypical levels in cancer. Glycans can impact all steps in tumour progression, from malignant transformation to metastasis, and have roles in all the cancer hallmarks. An increased understanding of glycans in the metastatic cascade offers exciting new therapeutic opportunities. Glycan-based targeting strategies are currently being tested in clinical trials and are a rich and untapped frontier for development. As we learn more about cancer glycobiology, new targets will continue to emerge for drug design. One key change in tumour glycosylation is the upregulation of cancer-associated sialylated glycans. Abnormal sialylation is integral to tumour growth, metastasis and immune evasion; therefore, targeting sialic acid moieties in cancer could be of high therapeutic value. Here, we summarise the changes to sialic acid biology in cancer and discuss recent advances and technologies bringing sialic-acid targeting treatments to the forefront of cancer therapeutics.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Munkley J, Scott E

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Medicines

Year: 2019

Volume: 6

Issue: 4

Online publication date: 13/10/2019

Acceptance date: 10/10/2019

ISSN (electronic): 2305-6320


DOI: 10.3390/medicines6040102