Cancer and the Immune System: A Double-Edged Sword

Cell surface sugars can promote or inhibit cancer depending upon stage

During cancer development, tumor cells decorate their surfaces with sugar compounds called glycans that are different from those found on normal, healthy cells. In the Sept. 15 online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report that sialic acids at the tips of these cancer cell glycans are capable of engaging with immune system cells and changing the latter’s response to the tumor – for good and bad. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Ajit Varki, MDPrincipal investigator of the study is Ajit Varki, MD, distinguished professor of medicine and cellular medicine, member of the UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center and co-director of both the Glycobiology Research and Training Center and UCSD/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA).

How Infectious Disease May Have Shaped Human Origins

Inactivation of two genes may have allowed escape from bacterial pathogens, researchers say

Roughly 100,000 years ago, human evolution reached a mysterious bottleneck: Our ancestors had been reduced to perhaps five to ten thousand individuals living in Africa. In time, “behaviorally modern” humans would emerge from this population, expanding dramatically in both number and range, and replacing all other co-existing evolutionary cousins, such as the Neanderthals. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Sexual Selection by Sugar Molecule Helped Determine Human Origins

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say that losing the ability to make a particular kind of sugar molecule boosted disease protection in early hominids, and may have directed the evolutionary emergence of our ancestors, the genus Homo….Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Dr. Ajit Varki

Dr. Ajit Varki, pictured above left, is senior author along with Dr. Pascal Gagneux, who is professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. Ajit Varki, MD, is Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Co-Director of the Glycobiology Research and Training Center, and Co-Director of the UCSD/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny.   |  Read the study published in PNAS (free full text)

Glycans Enter Mainstream of Biomedical Science

UC San Diego leads new national program to further develop the science of glycobiology

Scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have received a major 7-year, $18 million grant to begin translating emerging discoveries in the field of glycosciences into new discoveries and therapies related to heart, lung and blood diseases…. Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Dr. Ajit Varki

Principal investigator and project leader Ajit Varki, MD, is Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Co-Director of the Glycobiology Research and Training Center, and Co-Director of the UCSD/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny. | Read the project abstract

A Cancer Marker and Treatment in One?

UC San Diego Researchers Find Promise in Non-Human Sialic Acid Antibodies

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say antibodies to a non-human sugar molecule commonly found in people may be useful as a future biomarker for predicting cancer risk, for diagnosing cancer cases early and, in sufficient concentration, used as a treatment for suppressing tumor growth…. Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

Dr. Richard Schwab and Dr. Ajit Varki (pictured above left), led the study, which was a multicenter collaboration that included the departments of Medicine and of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Moores Cancer Center, and the Glycobiology Research and Training Center at UC San Diego.

Richard Schwab, MD, is Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology-Oncology. Ajit Varki, MD, is Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Co-Director of the Glycobiology Research and Training Center, and Co-Director of the UCSD/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny. Read the abstract of the published study in Cancer Research.

Missing Molecule Raises Diabetes Risk in Humans

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego say an evolutionary gene mutation that occurred in humans millions of years ago and our subsequent inability to produce a specific kind of sialic acid molecule appears to make people more vulnerable to developing type 2 diabetes, especially if they’re overweight. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom

The authors of the study report include Ajit Varki, M.D. (pictured), Distinguished Professor of Medicine and Cellular & Molecular Medicine and co-director of both the Glycobiology Research and Training Center and the UC San Diego/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA).   Read the published article (full text).

In the Media: Dr. Ajit Varki

Dr. Ajit Varki is one of a team of researchers whose recent study is described in the Wired article, “Rare Gene Glitch a Clue to Genomics Mystery.”

Ajit Varki, M.D., is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology-Oncology and Professor in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. He co-directs the UC San Diego Glycobiology Research and Training Center and the UC San Diego/Salk Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny (CARTA). He is Associate Dean of the Physician-Scientist Training Program.