Melanoma, which is one of the most aggressive human tumours, originates from melanin-producing melanocytes. As no effective systemic therapy exists for advanced-stage melanoma, the best chance of recovery remains surgical removal of thin early-stage melanoma. Aberrant glycosylation is a hallmark of malignancy and a well-studied class of β1,6-branched oligosaccharides is associated with malignant transformation of rodent and human cells, and poor prognosis in cancer patients. It is evident that increased β1,6 branching significantly contributes to the phenotype of melanoma cells, influencing the adhesion to extracellular matrix components and motility as well as invasive and metastatic potential. Despite the considerable success in establishing the role of β1,6-branched N-linked oligosaccharides in melanoma biology, there is virtually no progress in using these glycans as a screening tool for the early diagnosis of the disease, or a target-specific therapeutic agent.

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