The human CD44 gene encodes type 1 transmembrane glycoproteins involved in cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions. The structural heterogeneity of the gene products is caused primarily by alternative splicing of at least 10 out of 20 exons. Certain CD44 variant isoforms, in particular those containing CD44 variant domain 6 (CD44v6), have been implicated in tumourigenesis, tumour cell invasion and metastasis. Here we will give an overview of immunohistochemically determined CD44v6 expression in human malignancies (primary epithelial and nonepithelial tumours as well as metastases) and normal tissues, and review several examples of the clinical use of CD44v6-specific antibodies. In nonmalignant tissues, CD44v6 expression is essentially restricted to a subset of epithelia. Intense and homogeneous expression of CD44v6 was reported for the majority of squamous cell carcinomas and a proportion of adenocarcinomas of differing origin, but was rarely seen in nonepithelial tumours. This expression pattern has made CD44v6 an attractive target for antibody-guided therapy of various types of epithelium-derived cancers.
Copyright 2004 Springer-Verlag