Evaluation of the serum N-linked glycome for the diagnosis of cancer and chronic inflammation

Proteomics. 2008 Aug;8(16):3284-93. doi: 10.1002/pmic.200800163.


The identification of serum biomarkers has lead to improvements in the detection and diagnosis of cancer, and combinations of these biomarkers have increased further their sensitivity and specificity. Glycosylation is the most common PTM of secreted proteins and the identification of novel serum glyco-biomarkers has become a topic of increasing interest because the glycan processing pathways are frequently disturbed in cancer cells. A future goal is to combine current biomarkers with glyco-biomarkers to yield further improvements. Well characterised N-glycosylation changes in the serum glycome of cancer patients include changes in the levels of tri- and tetra-antennary glycan structures, sialyl Lewis X epitopes and agalactosylated bi-antennary glycans. Several of these glycosylated markers have been linked to chronic inflammatory diseases, promoting questions about the links between inflammation and cancer. In this review, the glycoproteins which display these glycan epitopes, the glycosyl transferases which can generate them, their potential functions and their use as biomarkers are evaluated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Glycomics / methods*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Inflammation / diagnosis
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Conformation
  • Neoplasms / blood*
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Polysaccharides / blood*
  • Polysaccharides / chemistry
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Polysaccharides