Carbohydrate antigens as targets for active specific immunotherapy

Cancer Immunol Immunother. 1996 Nov;43(3):152-7. doi: 10.1007/s002620050316.


Carbohydrate antigens such as GM2, GD2 and GD3 (gangliosides), Lewis(y) and globo-H (neutral glycolipids and glycoproteins), and Tn, TF and sTn (glycoproteins) are overexpressed in a variety of cancers. Antibodies against several of these carbohydrate antigens have been detected in sera from patients treated with cancer vaccines, and have been associated with a more favorable prognosis. Clinical responses have been reported after treatment with monoclonal antibodies against some of these antigens. Hence cell-surface carbohydrate antigens have been identified as suitable targets for immune attack by both active and passive immunotherapies. Different approaches have been adopted to induce immune responses against these carbohydrate antigens. These includes vaccination with whole or lysed tumor cells, purified or synthetic carbohydrates, immunogenic carbohydrate derivatives, or carbohydrates conjugated with immunogenic carriers and administered with immunological adjuvants. In the case of gangliosides, immunization with either whole tumor cells or cell lysates has only occasionally induced responses against carbohydrate antigens, and the antibodies were generally IgM antibodies of low titer. Compared with other methods of vaccination, conjugate vaccines have consistently induced the highest titer of IgM and IgG antibodies against gangliosides and other carbohydrate antigens. Preclinical and clinical studies with conjugate carbohydrate vaccines have induced IgM and IgG antibody responses capable of inducing complement-mediated cytotoxicity of tumor cells in vitro and associated with prolonged disease-free and overall survival in patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antigens, Tumor-Associated, Carbohydrate / immunology*
  • Cancer Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Gangliosides / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Vaccines, Conjugate / therapeutic use


  • Antigens, Tumor-Associated, Carbohydrate
  • Cancer Vaccines
  • Gangliosides
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Vaccines, Conjugate