Heparan Sulfate Mimetics in Cancer Therapy: The Challenge to Define Structural Determinants and the Relevance of Targets for Optimal Activity

Cinzia Lanzi, Giuliana Cassinelli

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Beyond anticoagulation, the therapeutic potential of heparin derivatives and heparan sulfate (HS) mimetics (functionally defined HS mimetics) in oncology is related to their ability to bind and modulate the function of a vast array of HS-binding proteins with pivotal roles in cancer growth and progression. The definition of structural/functional determinants and the introduction of chemical modifications enabled heparin derivatives to be identified with greatly reduced or absent anticoagulant activity, but conserved/enhanced anticancer activity. These studies paved the way for the disclosure of structural requirements for the inhibitory effects of HS mimetics on heparanase, selectins, and growth factor receptor signaling, as well as for the limitation of side effects. Actually, HS mimetics affect the tumor biological behavior via a multi-target mechanism of action based on their effects on tumor cells and various components of the tumor microenvironment. Emerging evidence indicates that immunomodulation can participate in the antitumor activity of these agents. Significant ability to enhance the antitumor effects of combination treatments with standard therapies was shown in several tumor models. While the first HS mimetics are undergoing early clinical evaluation, an improved understanding of the molecular contexts favoring the antitumor action in certain malignancies or subgroups is needed to fully exploit their potential.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecules
Volume23
Issue number11
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 8 2018

Keywords

  • Animals
  • Biomimetic Materials/chemistry
  • Cell Proliferation/drug effects
  • Disease Progression
  • Glucuronidase/metabolism
  • Heparitin Sulfate/chemistry
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms/drug therapy
  • Receptors, Growth Factor/metabolism
  • Selectins/metabolism
  • Signal Transduction/drug effects
  • Structure-Activity Relationship

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