Breast tumors that were histopathologically diagnosed as invasive ductal carcinoma were examined in relation to their abnormal expression of gangliosides. Total ganglioside levels that were expressed as lipid-bound sialic acids were significantly higher in breast tumor tissues than in normal mammary tissues. Two kinds of unusual gangliosides were found to be expressed in many cases of breast tumors. One was a group of O-acetylated gangliosides, such as O-acetyl-GD3 and O-acetyl-GT3. They are known as fetal gangliosides, which appear in fetal brains. The other was an N-glycolylneuraminic acid-containing ganglioside, N-glycolyl-GM3, which had not been previously found in normal human tissues. The finding that unusual gangliosides are expressed in breast tumors may provide the basis for their immunological diagnosis and vaccine therapy.

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