Purpose of review: Galectins are a family of lectin molecules that have emerged as key players in inflammation and tumor progresssion by displaying intracellular and extracellular activities. This review describes the recent advances on the role of galectins in hematological neoplasms.
Recent findings: Galectin-1 and galectin-3 are the best studied galectins in oncohematology. Increased expression of galectin-1 has been associated with tumor progression in Hodgkin's lymphoma and chronic lymphocytic leukemia, whereas galectin-3 plays a supporting role in chronic myelogenous leukemia and multiple myeloma. Functional studies have assigned a key role for galectin-1 as a negative regulator of T-cell immunity in Hodgkin's lymphoma and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Of therapeutic interest is the development of agents with the capacity to interfere with galectin functions.
Summary: Current knowledge indicates a key role for galectins in hematological neoplasms by favoring the growth and survival of tumor cells and facilitating tumor immune escape. Intervention using specific galectin inhibitors is emerging as an attractive therapeutic option to alter the course of these malignancies.