Different Shades of L1CAM in the Pathophysiology of Cancer Stem Cells
Unit of Gynaecological Oncology Research, European Institute of Oncology IRCSS, 20128 Milan, Italy
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
J. Clin. Med. 2020, 9(5), 1502; https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm9051502
Received: 2 April 2020 / Revised: 7 May 2020 / Accepted: 13 May 2020 / Published: 16 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue New Aspects of Cancer Stem Cell Biology: Implications for Innovative Therapies)
L1 cell adhesion molecule (L1CAM) is aberrantly expressed in several tumor types where it is causally linked to malignancy and therapy resistance, acting also as a poor prognosis factor. Accordingly, several approaches have been developed to interfere with L1CAM function or to deliver cytotoxic agents to L1CAM-expressing tumors. Metastatic dissemination, tumor relapse and drug resistance can be fueled by a subpopulation of neoplastic cells endowed with peculiar biological properties that include self-renewal, efficient DNA repair, drug efflux machineries, quiescence, and immune evasion. These cells, known as cancer stem cells (CSC) or tumor-initiating cells, represent, therefore, an ideal target for tumor eradication. However, the molecular and functional traits of CSC have been unveiled only to a limited extent. In this context, it appears that L1CAM is expressed in the CSC compartment of certain tumors, where it plays a causal role in stemness itself and/or in biological processes intimately associated with CSC (e.g., epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and chemoresistance). This review summarizes the role of L1CAM in cancer focusing on its functional contribution to CSC pathophysiology. We also discuss the clinical usefulness of therapeutic strategies aimed at targeting L1CAM in the context of anti-CSC treatments.