PhD student – Lab of Nico Callewaert, Center for Medical Biotechnology – VIB-Ugent (Faculty of Science)
Principal investigator: prof. Nico Callewaert (PhD)
One of the characteristics of (almost) all cancer cells is the altered glycosylation of their extracelullar plasma membrane proteins. Due to these alterations, they can escape the immune system, escape apoptotic signals, circulate freely throughout the body which results in metastasis, and many more. The positive side of this altered glycosylation is that it makes cancer cells different from healthy cells, making the altered glycans a possible target for immunotherapy.
The ultimate goal of this project is to find and localize specific altered glycans on tumor cells. In this way, antibodies can be developed that recognize both the cancer-specific glycan and amino acid backbone of the protein on which it resides. These combinatory epitopes are called glycopeptide epitopes. There are not many tumor specific epitopes known for solid tumors, so these glycopeptide epitopes could be new, very potent targets for immunotherapeutics.
With this project, we want to develop a mass spectrometry based technique that allows us to localize, identify and quantify specific cancer-related glycans on their plasma membrane proteins in one single run. The current state of the art mass spectrometry based glycan analytics allow only for localization OR identification, but never the combination of both. We hope to overcome this bottleneck with this project, in order to find the promising glycopeptide epitopes.