All cells are covered with a dense glycan layer called the glycocalyx which undergoes significant changes when normal cells transform to cancer cells. A growing body of evidence supports the crucial role of glycans in several pathophysiological stages of tumour progression. Glycans are involved in tumour proliferation, invasion, metastasis and angiogenesis, and the increased understanding of these roles has set the stage for developing antibodies that target these molecules.
The glycan structures altered by tumor development are located on cell surfaces Consequently, these glycan targets are both easily accessible by therapeutic antibodies and abundantly presented, i.e. have a high copy number per cell. Hence, cell surface glycans are ideal targets for antibody therapeutics and, due to their efficient internalization, for antibody-drug conjugates.