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Aberrant Sialylation in Cancer: Therapeutic Opportunities

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jennifer Munkley



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


© 2022 by the author. The surface of every eukaryotic cell is coated in a thick layer of glycans that acts as a key interface with the extracellular environment. Cancer cells have a different ‘glycan coat’ to healthy cells and aberrant glycosylation is a universal feature of cancer cells linked to all of the cancer hallmarks. This means glycans hold huge potential for the development of new diagnostic and therapeutic strategies. One key change in tumour glycosylation is increased sialylation, both on N-glycans and O-glycans, which leads to a dense forest of sialylated structures covering the cell surface. This hypersialylation has far-reaching consequences for cancer cells, and sialylated glycans are fundamental in tumour growth, metastasis, immune evasion and drug resistance. The development of strategies to inhibit aberrant sialylation in cancer represents an important opportunity to develop new therapeutics. Here, I summarise recent advances to target aberrant sialylation in cancer, including the development of sialyltransferase inhibitors and strategies to inhibit Siglecs and Selectins, and discuss opportunities for the future.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Munkley J

Publication type: Review

Publication status: Published

Journal: Cancers

Year: 2022

Volume: 14

Issue: 17

Online publication date: 31/08/2022

Acceptance date: 23/08/2022

ISSN (electronic): 2072-6694

Publisher: MDPI


DOI: 10.3390/cancers14174248