Altered glycosylation in pancreatic cancer and beyond

J Exp Med. 2022 Jun 6;219(6):e20211505. doi: 10.1084/jem.20211505. Epub 2022 May 6.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) is one of the deadliest cancers and is projected to soon be the second leading cause of cancer death. Median survival of PDA patients is 6-10 mo, with the majority of diagnoses occurring at later, metastatic stages that are refractory to treatment and accompanied by worsening prognoses. Glycosylation is one of the most common types of post-translational modifications. The complex landscape of glycosylation produces an extensive repertoire of glycan moieties, glycoproteins, and glycolipids, thus adding a dynamic and tunable level of intra- and intercellular signaling regulation. Aberrant glycosylation is a feature of cancer progression and influences a broad range of signaling pathways to promote disease onset and progression. However, despite being so common, the functional consequences of altered glycosylation and their potential as therapeutic targets remain poorly understood and vastly understudied in the context of PDA. In this review, the functionality of glycans as they contribute to hallmarks of PDA are highlighted as active regulators of disease onset, tumor progression, metastatic capability, therapeutic resistance, and remodeling of the tumor immune microenvironment. A deeper understanding of the functional consequences of altered glycosylation will facilitate future hypothesis-driven studies and identify novel therapeutic strategies in PDA.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal* / metabolism
  • Glycosylation
  • Humans
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Polysaccharides / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment


  • Polysaccharides