Research by Pierce and others has shown that changes in cell glycans can herald the presence of cancerous or precancerous cells. Among his research accomplishments, Pierce and his team isolated a specific enzyme known as Gnt-V that is elevated in colorectal and breast cancer cells, as well as other types of cancer. The team is now looking for ways to inhibit Gnt-V in hopes of developing a treatment that will slow the growth of tumors and prevent metastasis. The team at the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center has also developed new ways to identify changes in glycans attached to proteins known as glycoproteins.
Their search for new diagnostics also extends to pancreatic cancer. The UGA Cancer Center team is studying pancreatic tissue and fluid samples to find glycan changes that can be measured in a blood test that would allow doctors to diagnose the cancer early, when it’s more easily treated.