There has been significant progress in treating prostate cancer over the last few decades, which has resulted in increased patient survival and improved quality of life. Despite these advances, there remains significant unmet need in a subset of patients, particularly those presenting with bone metastases. These can be debilitatingly painful and are invariably incurable. In order to better diagnose and treat these aggressive cancers, Jennifer Munkley is leading a team that will ask whether the complex sugars coating cells called glycans may hold the key to treating this recalcitrant stage of prostate cancer. Glycans are macromolecules which influence diverse aspects of normal and tumor cell physiology. The group has previously identified three types of glycans found in high levels in tumors and blood from men with metastatic prostate cancer. They developed a test called GlycoScore to detect changes to the glycan levels which they are studying as a means to diagnose aggressive prostate cancer. Now, they will examine the mechanisms behind how these glycans cause the tumors to metastasize, and examine whether they represent drug targets. By repurposing existing glycan-targeting drugs, they will ask if these could quickly be translated into the clinic for patients with no other treatment options. Targeting glycans represents a new and potentially transformative approach to prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Munkley J. Aberrant Sialylation in Cancer: Therapeutic Opportunities. Cancers (Basel). 2022.