CD44 in cancer

Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2002 Nov;39(6):527-79. doi: 10.1080/10408360290795574.


CD44 is a multistructural and multifunctional cell surface molecule involved in cell proliferation, cell differentiation, cell migration, angiogenesis, presentation of cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors to the corresponding receptors, and docking of proteases at the cell membrane, as well as in signaling for cell survival. All these biological properties are essential to the physiological activities of normal cells, but they are also associated with the pathologic activities of cancer cells. Experiments in animals have shown that targeting of CD44 by antibodies, antisense,and CD44-soluble proteins markedly reduces the malignant activities of various neoplasms, stressing the therapeutic potential of anti-CD44 agents. Furthermore, because alternative splicing and posttranslational modifications generate many different CD44 sequences, including, perhaps, tumor-specific sequences, the production of anti-CD44 tumor-specific agents may be a realistic therapeutic approach. However, in many cancers (renal cancer and non-Hodgkin's lymphomas are exceptions), a high level of CD44 expression is not always associated with an unfavorable outcome. On the contrary, in some neoplams CD44 upregulation is associated with a favorable outcome. Even worse, in many cases different research grows analyzing the same neoplastic disease reached contradictory conclusions regarding the correlation between CD44 expression and disease prognosis, possibly due to differences in methodology. These problems must be resolved before applying anti-CD44 therapy to human cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Cell Adhesion / physiology
  • Cell Communication / physiology
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / chemistry*
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / drug effects
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / metabolism*
  • Ligands
  • Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • Ligands