Glycosylation markers in cancer.


Department of Biochemistry, Research Group for Glycosciences and Glycotechnology, Faculty of Medicine, Khon Kaen University, Khon Kaen, Thailand. Electronic address: [Email]


Alteration of glycosylation, a hallmark of cancer, results in the production of tumor-associated glycans or glycoproteins. These molecules are subsequently secreted or membrane-shed into the blood stream and thus serve as tumor-associated markers. Increased glycosylation in cancer is triggered by overexpression of glycoproteins that carry certain specific glycans, increase or decrease of nucleotide sugar donors and altered expression of glycosyltransferase and glycosidase enzymes. In this chapter, the biochemistry and function of glycoprotein, glycan and enzyme markers are reviewed. These glycosylation markers, applicable for detection and monitoring of cancer, include CA19-9, CA125, CEA, PSA and AFP. Because of their specific affinity to distinct sugar moieties, lectins are useful for developing assays to detect these tumor associated glycans and glycoproteins in clinical samples. As such, various enzyme-linked lectin assays (ELLA) have been developed for diagnosis, monitoring and prognosis. Because glycosylation changes occur early in cancer, the detection of tumor associated glycosylation markers using lectin based assays is an effective strategy to improve diagnosis and treatment resulting better outcomes clinically.