The biology and role of CD44 in cancer progression: Therapeutic implications

Chen Chen, Shujie Zhao, Anand Karnad, James W Freeman

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

254 Scopus citations


CD44, a non-kinase transmembrane glycoprotein, is overexpressed in several cell types including cancer stem cells and frequently shows alternative spliced variants that are thought to play a role in cancer development and progression. Hyaluronan, the main ligand for CD44, binds to and activates CD44 resulting in activation of cell signaling pathways that induces cell proliferation, increases cell survival, modulates cytoskeletal changes, and enhances cellular motility. The different functional roles of CD44 standard (CD44s) and specific CD44 variant (CD44v) isoforms are not fully understood. CD44v contain additional peptide motifs that can interact with and sequester growth factors and cytokines at the cell surface thereby functioning as coreceptors to facilitate cell signaling. Moreover, CD44v were expressed in metastasized tumors, whereas switching between CD44v and CD44s may play a role in regulating epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and in the adaptive plasticity of cancer cells. Here, we review current data on the structural and functional properties of CD44, the known roles for CD44 in tumorigencity, the regulation of CD44 expression, and the potential for targeting CD44 for cancer therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number64
JournalJournal of Hematology and Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 10 2018


  • CD44
  • Cancer
  • Cancer therapy
  • Epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT)
  • Signaling transduction
  • Tumorigenicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Hematology
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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