Hallmarks of glycosylation in cancer

Jennifer Munkley _ and David J. Elliott

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:35478-35489. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.8155

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Jennifer Munkley1 and David J. Elliott1

1 Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 3BZ, UK

Correspondence to:

Jennifer Munkley, email:

Keywords: cancer, glycosylation, hallmarks, glycans, aberrant

Received: January 28, 2016 Accepted: March 02, 2016 Published: March 17, 2016


Aberrant glycosylation plays a fundamental role in key pathological steps of tumour development and progression. Glycans have roles in cancer cell signalling, tumour cell dissociation and invasion, cell-matrix interactions, angiogenesis, metastasis and immune modulation. Aberrant glycosylation is often cited as a ‘hallmark of cancer’ but is notably absent from both the original hallmarks of cancer and from the next generation of emerging hallmarks. This review discusses how glycosylation is clearly an enabling characteristic that is causally associated with the acquisition of all the hallmark capabilities. Rather than aberrant glycosylation being itself a hallmark of cancer, another perspective is that glycans play a role in every recognised cancer hallmark.

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