Cancer immunotherapy and its budding effectiveness at improving patient outcomes has revitalized our hope to fight cancer in a logical and safe manner. Immunotherapeutic approaches to reengage the immune system have largely focused on reversing immune checkpoint inhibitor pathways, which suppress the antitumor response. Although these approaches have generated much excitement, they still lack absolute success. Interestingly, newly described host-tumor sugar chains (glycosylations) and glycosylation-binding proteins (lectins) play key roles in evading the immune system to determine cancer progression. In this issue of the JCI, Nambiar et al. used patient head and neck tumors and a mouse model system to investigate the role of galactose-binding lectin 1 (Gal1) in immunotherapy resistance. The authors demonstrated that Gal1 can affect immune checkpoint inhibitor therapy by increasing immune checkpoint molecules and immunosuppressive signaling in the tumor. Notably, these results suggest that targeting a tumor’s glycobiological state will improve treatment efficacy.
Asmi Chakraborty, Charles J. Dimitroff