In the context of cancer, E-cadherin has traditionally been categorized as a tumor suppressor, given its essential role in the formation of proper intercellular junctions, and its downregulation in the process of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in epithelial tumor progression. Germline or somatic mutations in the E-cadherin gene (CDH1) or downregulation by epigenetic mechanisms have been described in a small subset of epithelial cancers. However, recent evidence also points toward a promoting role of E-cadherin in several aspects of tumor progression. This includes preserved (or increased) E-cadherin expression in microemboli of inflammatory breast carcinoma, a possible "mesenchymal to epithelial transition" (MET) in ovarian carcinoma, collective cell invasion in some epithelial cancers, a recent association of E-cadherin expression with a more aggressive brain tumor subset, as well as the intriguing possibility of E-cadherin involvement in specific signaling networks in the cytoplasm and/or nucleus. In this review we address a lesser-known, positive role for E-cadherin in cancer.
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