CD44-positive Cancer Stem-like Cells as a Potential Source of Peritoneal Metastasis After Surgery

Anticancer Res. 2023 Jun;43(6):2491-2500. doi: 10.21873/anticanres.16416.


Background/aim: The role of CD44 in gastric cancer-derived peritoneal metastasis is currently unknown. It was previously shown that viable, tumorigenic cancer cells are spilled into the peritoneal cavity during surgery, providing a potential cause of peritoneal recurrence after surgery. The purpose of this study was to elucidate the mechanism of peritoneal metastasis of gastric cancer through the expression of CD44 and to propose a method for preventing peritoneal recurrence.

Materials and methods: Gastric cancer cell line MKN-45 was sorted into CD44+ and CD44- cells and then injected intraperitoneally into NOD/ShiJic-scidJcl mice. Differences in tumor-initiating capacity between the two groups were assessed using in vivo limiting dilution assays. Tumors harvested from both groups were examined for CD44 and ALDH1A1 expression using immunohistochemistry. The effects of CD44 blockade with anti-CD44 antibody on cell invasion and peritoneal metastasis formation in vivo were assessed.

Results: CD44+ cells showed significantly higher efficiency in initiating peritoneal tumor than CD44- cells. Blockade of CD44 significantly reduced peritoneal dissemination of CD44+ cells in vivo, indicating that the CD44 function of intraperitoneally disseminated cancer cells helped promote the formation of peritoneal metastasis. The margin of established tumors showed clusters of cells co-expressing CD44 and ALDH1A1. Peritoneally administered CD44- cells resulted in peritoneal metastases consisting of CD44+ and CD44- cancer cells.

Conclusion: CD44 expressing cells are a potential source of peritoneal metastasis after surgery and could be a promising target for preventing peritoneal recurrence.

Keywords: CD44; Gastric cancer; cancer stem cells; monoclonal antibody; peritoneal metastasis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Peritoneum / pathology
  • Stomach Neoplasms* / pathology


  • Hyaluronan Receptors