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Disease Markers - Volume 25 2008, Issue 4-5, Pages 207-218

Unitat de Bioquímica i Biologia Molecular, Departament de Biologia, Universitat de Girona, Campus de Montilivi s-n, Girona, Spain

Dublin-Oxford Glycobiology Laboratory, NIBRT, Conway Institute, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin, Ireland

Received 24 December 2008; Accepted 24 December 2008

Copyright © 2008 Hindawi Publishing Corporation. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The lack of specific and sensitive tumour markers for early detection of cancer is driving a search for new approaches that could identify biomarkers. Markers are needed to alert clinicians at the early stages of tumourogenesis, before the cancer has metastasized, when the therapeutic drugs are more effective. Most tumour markers currently used in clinics are serum glycoproteins, frequently highly glycosylated mucins. Typically, the disease marker is the protein and not the glycan moiety of the corresponding glycoprotein or mucin. The increasing knowledge of the role of glycans in cancer suggests that further studies may assist both in determining their role in every step of tumour progression, and in the design of new therapeutic and diagnosic approaches. Detection of the altered glycans in serum tumour glycoproteins could be a way to achieve specificity in tumour detection. In this review, we focus on the glycan changes of two serum glycoproteins, prostate specific antigen - currently used as a tumour marker of prostate cancer - and human pancreatic ribonuclease in pancreatic adenocarcinoma. The detection of glycan changes, associated with subsets of glycoforms in serum glycoproteins that are specific to the tumour situation, could be the basis for developing more specific biomarkers.

Autor: Rosa Peracaula, Sílvia Barrabés, Ariadna Sarrats, Pauline M. Rudd, and Rafael de Llorens



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