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Nat Rev Cancer. 2011 Apr;11(4):254-67. doi: 10.1038/nrc3023. Epub 2011 Mar 10.

CD44: can a cancer-initiating cell profit from an abundantly expressed molecule?

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Department of Tumour Cell Biology, University Hospital of Surgery and German Cancer Research Centre, D69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


Can an abundantly expressed molecule be a reliable marker for the cancer-initiating cells (CICs; also known as cancer stem cells), which constitute the minority of cells within the mass of a tumour? CD44 has been implicated as a CIC marker in several malignancies of haematopoietic and epithelial origin. Is this a fortuitous coincidence owing to the widespread expression of the molecule or is CD44 expression advantageous as it fulfils some of the special properties that are displayed by CICs, such as self-renewal, niche preparation, epithelial-mesenchymal transition and resistance to apoptosis?

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