N-cadherin as an invasion promoter: a novel target for antitumor therapy?

Curr Opin Investig Drugs. 2004 Dec;5(12):1274-8.


Cell adhesion molecules of the cadherin superfamily are frequently altered during tumor progression. The loss of E-cadherin, in particular, has long been described in various epithelial cancers where it correlates with malignancy and metastasis. In addition, a subset of tumors show de novo expression or upregulation of N-cadherin, a cadherin that promotes cell motility and invasion. In spite of the accumulating evidence supporting the relationship between N-cadherin levels and cancer progression, the causal role of N-cadherin in tumor development has not yet been clearly demonstrated. This review will address this issue at three different levels: (i) the expression pattern of N-cadherin in cancer; (ii) the cellular events that are modulated by N-cadherin and could account for its pro-invasive role in tumorigenesis; and (iii) the signaling properties of N-cadherin, with particular emphasis on its cross-talk with cell surface partners such as fibroblast growth factor receptor and with intracellular cascades such as the antiapoptotic machinery. Taken together, the topics discussed in this review point to N-cadherin as an important player in tumor development and, therefore, a potential target for novel therapeutic approaches.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Cadherins / physiology
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Movement / physiology
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / prevention & control*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / therapy*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cadherins