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Liesche, Friederike; Kölbl, Alexandra C.; Ilmer, Matthias; Hutter, Stefan; Jeschke, Udo and Andergassen, Ulrich (2016): Role of N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase 6 in early tumorigenesis and formation of metastasis. In: Molecular Medicine Reports, Vol. 13, No. 5: pp. 4309-4314

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Glycosylation is one of the most important posttranslational modifications of proteins and lipids that contributes to the structural diversity of cellular molecules. Enzymes of the glycosyltransferase class are responsible for altering glycosylation patterns by adding carbohydrate chains to the respective acceptor molecules. It is well known that glycosylation is commonly altered in cancerous tissue. Therefore, the present study aimed to determine the incidence of N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferase 6 (GALNT6), a prominent member of the glycosyltransferase class, in breast cancer tissue of different developmental stages by immunohistochemistry. Although no correlation was identified between tumour characteristics and GALNT6 staining intensity, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first study to demonstrate that tissue from carcinoma in situ-tumours and metastases were more heavily stained than late-stage breast cancers. This may indicate an important role of glycosylation aberration in escaping the immune system at early phases of tumour development. The present study also hypothesised that nascent or early metastasizing tumours are normally recognized by the immune system of the patient, but glycosylation pattern changes may facilitate tumor escape from immune recognition. In follow-up studies, our group will aim to confirm and consolidate these results in a larger patient cohort that may give greater insight into breast cancer characterization as well as tumour treatment.

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