CD44 is a Mr 90,000 surface glycoprotein believed to be involved in cell adhesion and migration. We investigated the role of CD44 in tumor growth and metastasis using human melanoma cell lines SMMU-1 and SMMU-2. Both SMMU-1 and SMMU-2 form tumors in the s.c. tissues when injected s.c. in SCID mice but only SMMU-2 metastasizes. Approximately one-half of SCID mice receiving injections of SMMU-2 s.c. develop metastatic tumors. SMMU-2 but not SMMU-1 expresses high levels of the hematopoietic form of CD44 and binds fluorescence-conjugated hyaluronic acid in vitro.

GKW.A3 is a monoclonal antibody specific for human CD44 that can completely inhibit the binding of hyaluronic acid to SMMU-2 tumor cells in vitro. Moreover, in vivo injection of GKW.A3 inhibited the growth and metastatic potential of SMMU-2 tumor cells. Administration of GKW.A3 i.v. 1 week after s.c. tumor injection did not inhibit local tumor development but inhibited the formation of metastatic tumors and prolonged animal survival. Therefore, interactions between CD44 on tumor cells and its ligands in vivo may be necessary for tumor growth and metastasis.

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This work was supported in part by Grants RO-1 AI-277740, AR-38018, and AR39795 from NIH and a Visiting Chinese Scholarship from Science Philosophy Betterment Society. Y.J.G. is a recipient of the International Exchange Research Award from China Nature & Science Foundation.

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