Changes in a specific type of sugarlike molecule, or glycan, on the surface of cancer cells help them to spread into other tissues, according to researchers at the University of California, Davis. Published March 23 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the work could lead to diagnostic tests and new therapies to slow or stop the spread of cancers.
The research team led by Carlito Lebrilla, professor of chemistry in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science, worked with cells derived from a human cholangiocarcinoma, or bile duct cancer. Cholangiocarcinoma is relatively rare but becoming more common in the U.S. It metastasizes readily and is often incurable by the time of diagnosis.
Lebrilla’s laboratory at UC Davis has been studying glycans, glycoproteins and the roles they play in the body for many years, developing new techniques to analyze and characterize them.