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Galectin-1 Inhibition Shows Early Promise in Head and Neck Cancer

Angelica Welch
Published: Wednesday, Apr 12, 2017

Dhanya Nambiar, PhD

Dhanya Nambiar, PhD

The carbohydrate-binding protein Galectin-1 (Gal-1) is secreted at a high level by cancer cells. Researchers at Stanford University examined whether targeted Gal-1 as part of a combinatorial approach would be effective in head and neck cancer.

at the 2017 AACR Annual Meeting, Nambiar discussed the role of galectin-1 in the tumor microenvironment, and the potential for targeting this protein in patients with head and neck cancer.

OncLive: Could you provide an overview of your study? 

Nambiar: Almost 50% or more of patients that have cancer get radiation therapy, and it is limited by a lot of toxicities. Our lab is looking at how radiation affects immune response, and one of the proteins that we are interested in is Gal-1 which can affect immune cells from coming into the tumor.

We are trying a combinatorial approach where we think that if you inhibit Gal-1, bring in the T cells and use these checkpoint inhibitors to keep them active for longer. So, it is a kind of double-edged targeting that will make them more responsive. We have seen this in head and neck cancers and it is showing very good efficacy when we combine these 2 drugs together. We are now just trying to develop this into different models and look into how we can better these responses. We are also hoping that if it works in these pre-clinical models it might even make its way into a trial.

How did you come to the decision to study galectin-1?

This protein has been worked on in our lab for quite some time. One of the first results that came from our lab was that these tumors are very hypoxic, they usually do not get a lot of oxygen, which makes them more aggressive—they can survive in these hypoxic conditions. How they do that is by modulating certain proteins that help them do that, and Gal-1 is one of the hypoxia-responsive genes—it gets induced during hypoxia. 
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Online CME Activities
TitleExpiration DateCME Credits
Medical Crossfire®: How Can We Optimize Outcomes in Head and Neck Cancers with Immunotherapeutic Strategies?Oct 31, 20191.5
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