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Mol Oncol. 2018 Jun;12(6):972-990. doi: 10.1002/1878-0261.12312. Epub 2018 May 14.

N-glycan signatures identified in tumor interstitial fluid and serum of breast cancer patients: association with tumor biology and clinical outcome.

Author information

Computational Biology Laboratory, Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Department of Cancer Genetics, Institute for Cancer Research, The Norwegian Radium Hospital, Oslo University Hospital, Norway.
NIBRT GlycoScience Group, National Institute for Bioprocessing Research and Training, Dublin 4, Ireland.
Danish Cancer Society Research Center, Genome Integrity Unit, Breast Cancer Biology Group, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Particular N-glycan structures are known to be associated with breast malignancies by coordinating various regulatory events within the tumor and corresponding microenvironment, thus implying that N-glycan patterns may be used for cancer stratification and as predictive or prognostic biomarkers. However, the association between N-glycans secreted by breast tumor and corresponding clinical relevance remain to be elucidated. We profiled N-glycans by HILIC UPLC across a discovery dataset composed of tumor interstitial fluids (TIF, n = 85), paired normal interstitial fluids (NIF, n = 54) and serum samples (n = 28) followed by independent evaluation, with the ultimate goal of identifying tumor-related N-glycan patterns in blood of patients with breast cancer. The segregation of N-linked oligosaccharides revealed 33 compositions, which exhibited differential abundances between TIF and NIF. TIFs were depleted of bisecting N-glycans, which are known to play essential roles in tumor suppression. An increased level of simple high mannose N-glycans in TIF strongly correlated with the presence of tumor infiltrating lymphocytes within tumor. At the same time, a low level of highly complex N-glycans in TIF inversely correlated with the presence of infiltrating lymphocytes within tumor. Survival analysis showed that patients exhibiting increased TIF abundance of GP24 had better outcomes, whereas low levels of GP10, GP23, GP38, and coreF were associated with poor prognosis. Levels of GP1, GP8, GP9, GP14, GP23, GP28, GP37, GP38, and coreF were significantly correlated between TIF and paired serum samples. Cross-validation analysis using an independent serum dataset supported the observed correlation between TIF and serum, for five of nine N-glycan groups: GP8, GP9, GP14, GP23, and coreF. Collectively, our results imply that profiling of N-glycans from proximal breast tumor fluids is a promising strategy for determining tumor-derived glyco-signature(s) in the blood. N-glycans structures validated in our study may serve as novel biomarkers to improve the diagnostic and prognostic stratification of patients with breast cancer.


N-glycan; biomarker; blood; heterogeneity; tumor infiltrating lymphocytes; tumor microenvironment

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