Tumour associated glycans: A route to boost immunotherapy?

Clin Chim Acta. 2020 Mar;502:167-173. doi: 10.1016/j.cca.2019.12.015. Epub 2019 Dec 20.


While the development of immunotherapies for cancer treatment offer significant promise across several cancers, still only a small subset of patients respond to immune based monotherapies. As such, attention has turned to the development of combination therapies. These use conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy to sensitise tumours to immunotherapy. Here, we summarise key research, highlighting the exciting potential of tumour associated glycans as therapeutic targets to sensitise tumours to immunotherapy. When cells undergo carcinogenesis they reprogram their glyco-code. Several cancer associated glycans have been identified, and therapies targeting them are under development. Proteins containing carbohydrate binding domains (lectins) are expressed by many immune cell subtypes, and upon glycan binding, transduce immune modulatory signals that regulate the tumour immune microenvironment.

Keywords: Cancer glycosylation; Glycans; Immunotherapy; Lectins.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy*
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Polysaccharides / immunology*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology


  • Polysaccharides