Glycans and galectins in prostate cancer biology, angiogenesis and metastasis

Glycobiology. 2014 Oct;24(10):899-906. doi: 10.1093/glycob/cwu055. Epub 2014 Jun 16.


Prostate cancer is the second most common cause of cancer and the sixth leading cause of cancer death among men worldwide. While localized prostate cancer can be cured, advanced and metastatic prostate cancer remains a significant therapeutic challenge. Malignant transformation is associated with important modifications of the cellular glycosylation profile, and it is postulated that these changes have a considerable relevance for tumor biology. Metastasis is a multiphasic process that encompasses angiogenesis, the spread of tumor cells and their growth at distant sites from the primary tumor location. Recognition of glycoconjugates by galectins, among other lectins, plays a fundamental role in the metastatic spread, tumor immune escape and the neovascularization process. Particularly in prostate cancer, both carbohydrates and galectins have been implicated in many cellular processes such as proliferation, apoptosis, migration and invasion. However, a limited number of studies assessed their potential implications in the induction of metastasis in prostate cancer patients or in animal models. Moreover, the role of galectin-glycan interactions in vivo still remains poorly understood; concerted effort should thus be made in order to shed some light on this question. This review summarizes current evidence on both the expression and role of glycans and galectins in prostate cancer, particularly turning our attention to the angiogenic and metastatic processes.

Keywords: angiogenesis and metastasis; carbohydrate; galectin; glycan; prostate tumor.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cell Movement / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • Galectins / genetics*
  • Galectins / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / genetics*
  • Polysaccharides / genetics*
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology


  • Galectins
  • Polysaccharides