Cell surface carbohydrates (known as glycans) are often aberrantly expressed or found at atypical levels in cancer. Glycans can impact all steps in tumour progression, from malignant transformation to metastasis, and have roles in all the cancer hallmarks. An increased understanding of glycans in the metastatic cascade offers exciting new therapeutic opportunities. Glycan-based targeting strategies are currently being tested in clinical trials and are a rich and untapped frontier for development. As we learn more about cancer glycobiology, new targets will continue to emerge for drug design. One key change in tumour glycosylation is the upregulation of cancer-associated sialylated glycans. Abnormal sialylation is integral to tumour growth, metastasis and immune evasion; therefore, targeting sialic acid moieties in cancer could be of high therapeutic value. Here, we summarise the changes to sialic acid biology in cancer and discuss recent advances and technologies bringing sialic-acid targeting treatments to the forefront of cancer therapeutics.
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