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Angew Chem Int Ed Engl. 2000 Mar;39(5):836-863.

From the Laboratory to the Clinic: A Retrospective on Fully Synthetic Carbohydrate-Based Anticancer Vaccines Frequently used abbreviations are listed in the appendix.

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  • 1Laboratory of Bioorganic Chemistry Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research 1275 York Avenue, New York, NY 10021 (USA).


This review provides an account of our explorations into oligosaccharide and glycoconjugate construction for the creation and evaluation of vaccines based on carbohydrate-centered tumor antigens. Our starting point was the known tendency of transformed cells to express selective carbohydrate motifs in the form of glycoproteins or glycolipids. Anticancer vaccines derived from carbohydrate-based antigens could be effective targets for immune recognition and attack. Obtaining significant quantities of such structures from natural sources is, however, extremely difficult. With the total synthesis of tumor-associated carbohydrate antigens accomplished, we began to evaluate at the clinical level whether the human immune system can respond to such fully synthetic antigens in a focused and useful way. Toward this goal, we have merged the resources of chemistry and immunology in an attack on the problem. The synthesis and immunoconjugation of various tumor-associated carbohydrate antigens and the results of such constructs in mice vaccinations will be described. For fashioning an effective vaccine, conjugation to a suitable immunogenic carrier was necessary and conjugates of KLH (keyhole limpet cyanin) have consistently demonstrated the relevant immunogenicity. Preclinical and clinical studies with synthetic conjugate carbohydrate vaccines show induction of IgM- and IgG-antibody responses. Another approach to anticancer vaccines involves the use of clustered glycopeptides as targets for immune attack. Initial attention has been directed to mucin related O-linked glycopeptides. Synthetic trimeric clusters of glycoepitopes derived from the Tn-, TF- and Lewis(y)-antigens, appropriately bioconjugated, have been demonstrated to be immunogenic. The hope is that patients immunized in an adjuvant manner with synthetic carbohydrate vaccines would produce antibodies reactive with cancer cells and that the production of such antibodies would mitigate against tumor spread, thereby enabling a more favorable survival and "quality of life" prognosis.

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