Ganglioside as a Therapy Target in Various Types of Cancer


Department of Immunology, Tabriz University of Medical Sciences, Tabriz, Iran


Since their discovery in 1940, it has been well established that gangliosides are associated with a number of biological pathways and cellular processes such as growth, differentiation and toxin uptake. Gangliosides are glycosphingolipids containing neuraminic acid which are expressed on the plasma membrane of cells particularly in the nervous system. Heterogeneity and structural variation in the carbohydrate chains of gangliosides contributes to unique features of each of these molecules. Thirty five years ago it was discovered that aberrant glycosylation occurs in a variety of human cancers, including aberrant glycosylation of gangliosides. Ganglioside expression in terms of quality and quantity varies in different cancers and different roles may be played. Gangliosides, by affecting the immune system, including esxpression of cytokines and adhesion molecules, may inhibit anti-tumor mechanisms, as well as having direct impact on angiogenesis, cell movement and metastasis. It should be noted that different kinds of gangliosides do not all act by the same mechanisms.