At the plasma membrane, gangliosides, a group of glycosphingolipids, are expressed along with glycosphingolipids, phospholipids, and cholesterol in so-called lipid rafts that interact with signaling receptors and related molecules. Most cancers present abnormalities in the intracellular signal transduction system involved in tumor growth, invasion, and metastasis. To date, the roles of gangliosides as regulators of signal transduction have been reported in several cancer types. Gangliosides can be expressed by the exogenous ganglioside addition, with their endogenous expression regulated at the enzymatic level by targeting specific glycosyltransferases. Accordingly, the relationship between changes in the composition of cell surface gangliosides and signal transduction has been investigated by controlling ganglioside expression. In cancer cells, several types of signaling molecules are positively or negatively regulated by ganglioside expression levels, promoting malignant properties. Moreover, antibodies against gangliosides have been shown to possess cytotoxic effects on ganglioside-expressing cancer cells. In the present review, we highlight the involvement of gangliosides in the regulation of cancer cell signaling, and we explore possible therapies targeting ganglioside-expressing cancer.
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