Targeting Glycans and Heavily Glycosylated Proteins for Tumor Imaging

Targeting Glycans and Heavily Glycosylated Proteins for Tumor Imaging

Ruben D. Houvast, Mireille Vankemmelbeke, Lindy G. Durrant, Manfred Wuhrer, Victor M. Baart, Peter J.K. Kuppen, Lioe-Fee de Geus-Oei, Alexander L. Vahrmeijer and Cornelis F.M. Sier

SIMPLE SUMMARY:  Distinguishing malignancy from healthy tissue is essential for oncologic surgery. Targeted imaging during an operation aids the surgeon to operate better. The present tracers for detecting cancer are directed against proteins that are overexpressed on the membrane of tumor cells. This review evaluates the use of tumor-associated sugar molecules as an alternative for proteins to image cancer tissue. These sugar molecules are present as glycans on glycosylated membrane proteins and glycolipids. Due to their location and large numbers per cell, these sugar molecules might be better targets for tumor imaging than proteins.

ABSTRACT:  Real-time tumor imaging techniques are increasingly used in oncological surgery, but still need to be supplemented with novel targeted tracers, providing specific tumor tissue detection based on intra-tumoral processes or protein expression. To maximize tumor/non-tumor contrast, targets should be highly and homogenously expressed on tumor tissue only, preferably from the earliest developmental stage onward. Unfortunately, most evaluated tumor-associated proteins appear not to meet all of these criteria. Thus, the quest for ideal targets continues. Aberrant glycosylation of proteins and lipids is a fundamental hallmark of almost all cancer types and contributes to tumor progression. Additionally, overexpression of glycoproteins that carry aberrant glycans, such as mucins and proteoglycans, is observed. Selected tumor-associated glyco-antigens are abundantly expressed and could, thus, be ideal candidates for targeted tumor imaging. Nevertheless, glycan-based tumor imaging is still in its infancy. In this review, we highlight the potential of glycans, and heavily glycosylated proteoglycans and mucins as targets for multimodal tumor imaging by discussing the preclinical and clinical accomplishments within this field. Additionally, we describe the major advantages and limitations of targeting glycans compared to cancer-associated proteins. Lastly, by providing a brief overview of the most attractive tumor-associated glycans and glycosylated proteins in association with their respective tumor types, we set out the way for implementing glycan-based imaging in a clinical practice.


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