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Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 1998 Sep;7(9):1389-403.

Lectins: from basic science to clinical application in cancer prevention.

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Division of Investigative Science, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, Hammersmith Campus, London, W12 ONN, UK.


Many physiological functions are attributable to lectin-carbohydrate interactions. Lectins are currently being studied for their ability to destroy tumour growth by binding to specific carbohydrate motifs on cancer cells. Cell-surface molecules, including growth factor receptors are often glycosylated, and lectins may act by binding to these. Certain lectins effect the proliferation of intestinal epithelial cells. This effect is cell-type and lectin specific and occurs in the intestine of intact animals, in human colonic explants and colorectal cancer cell lines. Lectins present in mammalian tissue are involved in cell-matrix adhesion, differentiation, lymphocyte circulation and immunomodulation. Mammalian lectins contribute to detection, diagnosis and prognosis of tumour cells, and can be targeted for therapy. New lectins of plant and mammalian origin that have one or more of these functions are currently being developed as tools that could be used to target tumour cells.

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