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Helix Pomatia Lectin and Cancer

The involvement of Helix pomatia lectin (HPA) binding N-acetylgalactosamine glycans in cancer progression.

Histol Histopathol 2000 Jan;15(1):143-58

Brooks SA.

The lectin from Helix pomatia, the Roman snail (HPA), recognises terminal alpha N-acetylgalactosamine residues. A large number of lectin histochemical studies have demonstrated that expression of HPA-binding glycoproteins by cancer cells to be a marker of metastatic competence and poor prognosis in a range of common human adenocarcinomas, including those of breast, stomach, ovary, oesophagus, colorectum, thyroid and prostate. Around 80% of metastases arising from primary breast cancer are predictably HPA positive, but, intriguingly, around 20% do not express HPA binding glycoproteins reflecting the complexity of metastatic mechanisms and the further disruptions in cellular glycosylation that attend tumour progression. HPA binding is not an independent prognostic factor, but is strongly associated with the presence of metastases in local lymph nodes. It does appear to be independent of other clinical features of prognostic importance such as tumour size, histological grade, S-phase fraction, ploidy, and there is little convincing evidence of any association with oncogene expression or hormone receptor positivity. The precise nature of the metastasis-associated HPA binding partner(s) is a question of some interest, but thus far remains unclear. HPA will recognise, for example, the Tn epitope and blood group A antigen, but its prognostic significance appears to be through recognition of a much broader and heterogeneous array of N-galactosaminylated glycoproteins. Their synthesis appears to be mediated through alteration in expression or activity of one or more of the enzymes of glycosylation. The most likely putative roles of HPA-binding ligands in the metastatic cascade may be enhancement of invasive capacity, or interaction with an as yet unidentified lectin-like receptor facilitating adhesion processes. The prognostic information provided by HPA lectin histochemistry may be used clinically to inform the physician and aid treatment decisions; far more interesting is the challenge of further understanding the precise nature of the HPA-binding ligands, and defining their role in the complex mechanisms of metastasis.

Helix pomatia (escargot snail) has been used as a traditional anti-cancer remedy since medieval European times. This article casts additional light upon the technical aspects of the lectin and its peculiarities. Certainly those individuals who are blood group A will want to consider addtional Helix pomatia to their diet.

My recipe for Escargot

The Ask Dr. D'Adamo internet advice column ran from 1996 to 2009, at which time Dr. D'Adamo's teaching and programming responsibilities no longer allowed him to devote time and resources to directly answering visitor questions. However we've recently reorganized this treasure-trove of material and made it again available to his readership. He occasionally posts new entries. These are marked with a NEW tag.

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