Home » Sugar Chains On Cell Surfaces Affect The Sensitivity Of Cancerous Cells To TRAIL

Sugar Chains On Cell Surfaces Affect The Sensitivity Of Cancerous Cells To TRAIL

by Coffee Table Science

Cancer is a disease in which some cells of the body grow uncontrollably and spread to other parts of the body. These cells may form lumps of tissues which are called tumours. These tumours spread into nearby tissues and can travel to different body parts to form new tumours. 

Many treatment options are available to cure cancer disease. These treatments depend on several factors, such as cancer stage, general health and type of cancer. The cancer treatment options include TRAIL therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, radiation therapy, targeted drug therapy, hormone therapy, immunotherapy and many more. TRAIL therapy is one of the effective treatment options that stop cancer cells from spreading in the body by killing them. 

TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is a cytokine (cell protein) that binds to TRAIL receptors (death receptors) and kills the cancer cells (apoptosis), but not the normal cells. TRAIL is used in the treatment of cancer. Various anticancer medications have been developed that target TRAIL receptors. This TRAIL therapy gained popularity as optimistic cancer remedial. But many cancer patients do not respond well to this therapy. Therefore, researchers at Toho University and Osaka University, Japan, have identified a key molecule that determines the reactivity of cancer cells towards TRAIL therapy.

Image Credits: Wikimedia

Image Credits: Wikimedia

What is cell surface structure?

There are various shapes, sizes and types of cells. A cell is made of a nucleus, cytoplasm and cell membrane (cell surface). This cell surface is covered with sugar chains called glycans, which maintain tissue structure, determine cell character and enable cells to interact with each other. But the glycan structures on the cell surface change when the cells become cancerous. These structures make cancer cells exposed to the TRAIL.

What did the study find?

Researchers discovered that fucose, one of the building blocks of glycans, is a sugar affecting the sensitivity of cancer cells to TRAIL. They studied the glycans’ structures having fucose and found that cancer cells expressing a certain glycan structure called Lewis glycans on the cell surface were vulnerable to death-inducing cytokine, TRAIL. Researchers found that Lewis glycans were attached to lipids and proteins on the surface. But the Lewis glycans on lipids enhance TRAIL sensitivity more than the Lewis glycans on proteins. Further, they could predict the sensitivity of cancerous cells in patients with colon cancer to TRAIL-induced cell death by examining the expression levels of Lewis glycans. Hence, this glycan structure is expected to be a predictive biomarker for TRAIL therapy.

Image Credits: Wikimedia

‘‘These findings shed light on the regulatory mechanism of TRAIL-induced cell death and encourage the development of a novel therapeutic strategy targeting the TRAIL signalling. Furthermore, TRAIL resistance is a vital intrinsic mechanism that renders cancer cells insensitive to certain kinds of cancer immunotherapy, so these findings also have a great impact on the development of a predictive biomarker for cancer immunotherapy,’’ said Dr Tomoya Fukuoka, Associate Professor at Osaka University.

The study results were published in the journal Oncogene.

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