Aberrant glycosylation in tumour progression is currently a topic of main interest. Tumour-associated carbohydrate antigens (TACAs) are expressed in a wide variety of epithelial cancers, being both a diagnostic tool and a potential treatment target, as they have impact on patient outcome and disease progression. Glycans affect both tumour-cell biology properties as well as the antitumor immune response. It has been ascertained that TACAs affect cell migration, invasion and metastatic properties both when expressed by cancer cells or by their extracellular vesicles. On the other hand, tumour-associated glycans recognized by C-type lectin receptors in immune cells possess immunomodulatory properties which enable tumour growth and immune response evasion. Yet, much remains unknown, concerning mechanisms involved in deregulation of glycan synthesis and how this affects cell biology on a major level. This review summarises the main findings to date concerning how aberrant glycans influence tumour growth and immunity, their application in cancer treatment and spotlights of unanswered challenges remaining to be solved.
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