Hyaluronan–CD44 interactions as potential targets for cancer therapy


S. Misra, or S. Ghatak, Regenerative Medicine and Cell Biology, BSB # 613, Medical University of South Carolina, Charleston, SC 29425, USA
Fax: 843 792 0664
Tel: 843 792 8642
E-mail: misra@musc.edu; ghatak@musc.edu
P. Heldin, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Uppsala University Biomedical Centre, Box 595, SE-75124 Uppsala, Sweden
Tel: 0046 18 160414
Fax: 0046 18 160420


It is becoming increasingly clear that signals generated in tumor microenvironments are crucial to tumor cell behavior, such as survival, progression and metastasis. The establishment of these malignant behaviors requires that tumor cells acquire novel adhesion and migration properties to detach from their original sites and to localize to distant organs. CD44, an adhesion/homing molecule, is a major receptor for the glycosaminoglycan hyaluronan, which is one of the major components of the tumor extracellular matrix. CD44, a multistructural and multifunctional molecule, detects changes in extracellular matrix components, and thus is well positioned to provide appropriate responses to changes in the microenvironment, i.e. engagement in cell–cell and cell–extracellular matrix interactions, cell trafficking, lymph node homing and the presentation of growth factors/cytokines/chemokines to co-ordinate signaling events that enable the cell responses that change in the tissue environment. The potential involvement of CD44 variants (CD44v), especially CD44v4–v7 and CD44v6–v9, in tumor progression has been confirmed for many tumor types in numerous clinical studies. The downregulation of the standard CD44 isoform (CD44s) in colon cancer is postulated to result in increased tumorigenicity. CD44v-specific functions could be caused by their higher binding affinity than CD44s for hyaluronan. Alternatively, CD44v-specific functions could be caused by differences in associating molecules, which may bind selectively to the CD44v exon. This minireview summarizes how the interaction between hyaluronan and CD44v can serve as a potential target for cancer therapy, in particular how silencing CD44v can target multiple metastatic tumors.