Serum glycans can detect early stage gastric cancer

Gastric cancer (GC) has become a major global health problem in recent years with nearly one million newly diagnosed cases and more than 700,000 deaths annually worldwide. Doctors acknowledge that it is urgent to identify non-invasive biomarkers for GC in order to improve early detection and disease surveillance.

Serological glycomic profiling is an emerging non-invasive screening tool for finding potential biomarkers in diagnosis of early stage cancer and disease surveillance. Serum glycans alteration plays an important role in regulating the proliferation, invasion, metastasis, and angiogenesis of tumour. Some of them have also been recognized as potential biomarkers in numerous kinds of cancers, including pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma.

A new study done by Dr. Ruihuan Qin and team at the Fudan University in China aimed at the discovery of non-invasive glycan biomarkers for detection and surveillance of GC by glycomics analysis based on mass spectrometry method. Scientists found differences in glycosylation between non-cancer controls and GC samples. They observed increase in hybrid and multi-branched type (tri-, tetra-antennnary glycans) N-glycans in GC, whereas, monoantennary, galactose, bisecting type and core fucose N-glycans were decreased. Furthermore, they found several specific N-glycan structures to surveillance the progress of GC, especially the peritoneal metastasis.

The results from this study suggest that several N-glycan biomarkers have the potential in distinguishing early stage GC from healthy controls, and can also help to monitor the progression of GC. Further studies are still needed to validate the potential of these findings as promising biomarkers and identify the role of protein glycosylation in GC pathology.

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