Cadherin is an important cell adhesion molecule that plays paramount roles in organ development and the maintenance of tissue integrity. Dysregulation of cadherin expression is often associated with disease pathology including tissue dysplasia, tumor formation, and metastasis. Cadherin-17 (CDH17), belonging to a subclass of 7D-cadherin superfamily, is present in fetal liver and gastrointestinal tract during embryogenesis, but the gene becomes silenced in healthy adult liver and stomach tissues. It functions as a peptide transporter and a cell adhesion molecule to maintain tissue integrity in epithelia. However, recent findings from our group and others have reported aberrant expression of CDH17 in major gastrointestinal malignancies including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), stomach and colorectal cancers, and its clinical association with tumor metastasis and advanced tumor stages. Furthermore, alternative splice isoforms and genetic polymorphisms of CDH17 gene have been identified in HCC and linked to an increased risk of HCC. CDH17 is an attractive target for HCC therapy. Targeting CDH17 in HCC can inhibit tumor growth and inactivate Wnt signaling pathway in concomitance with activation of tumor suppressor genes. Further investigation on CDH17-mediated oncogenic signaling and cognate molecular mechanisms would shed light on new targeting therapy on HCC and potentially other gastrointestinal malignancies.
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