Metabolic glycan labelling for cancer-targeted therapy

Hua Wang, David J Mooney

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Metabolic glycoengineering with unnatural sugars provides a powerful tool to label cell membranes with chemical tags for subsequent targeted conjugation of molecular cargos via efficient chemistries. This technology has been widely explored for cancer labelling and targeting. However, as this metabolic labelling process can occur in both cancerous and normal cells, cancer-selective labelling needs to be achieved to develop cancer-targeted therapies. Unnatural sugars can be either rationally designed to enable preferential labelling of cancer cells, or specifically delivered to cancerous tissues. In this Review Article, we will discuss the progress to date in design and delivery of unnatural sugars for metabolic labelling of tumour cells and subsequent development of tumour-targeted therapy. Metabolic cell labelling for cancer immunotherapy will also be discussed. Finally, we will provide a perspective on future directions of metabolic labelling of cancer and immune cells for the development of potent, clinically translatable cancer therapies. [Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1102-1114
Number of pages13
JournalNature Chemistry
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Chemistry


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