Levels of specific glycans significantly distinguish lymph node-positive from lymph node-negative breast cancer patients

Glycobiology. 2010 Oct;20(10):1283-8. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwq090. Epub 2010 Jun 24.


One of the most urgent requirements in breast cancer is the development of a blood-based test for early detection and prognosis. Previously published results found a significant difference between specific glycan levels in patients with advanced breast cancer and healthy controls. The aim of this investigation was to address a more clinically relevant problem, i.e., whether the measurement of specific glycans could identify women with aggressive disease at an early stage. In order to reduce potential bias in this study, blood samples from patients were collected, stored and analyzed in a similar manner. Agalactosyl biantennary glycans (FA2) and glycans containing the sialyl Lewis x epitope (A3F1G1 and A2F1G1) were measured using high throughput normal-phase high-performance liquid chromatography in combination with exoglycosidase digestions in sera from 52 patients with early breast cancer (21 with lymph node-negative and 20 with lymph node-positive disease) and 134 women with benign breast disease. The combined levels of the glycans were significantly higher in patients with lymph node metastases compared to women without these metastases. Lymph node status is the single most important determinant of survival in early stage breast cancer. As high levels of these glycans were associated with nodal metastases, their measurement may provide a new non-invasive approach to determining prognosis in women with newly diagnosed breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / blood*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / secondary
  • Axilla
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / blood*
  • Carcinoma, Ductal, Breast / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / blood*
  • Carcinoma, Lobular / secondary
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lewis X Antigen / blood
  • Lymph Nodes / metabolism*
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Polysaccharides / blood*
  • Prognosis
  • Sialyl Lewis X Antigen


  • Lewis X Antigen
  • Polysaccharides
  • Sialyl Lewis X Antigen