Epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) is a cell surface protein that was discovered as a tumour marker of epithelial origins nearly four decades ago. EpCAM is expressed at basal levels in the basolateral membrane of normal epithelial cells. However, EpCAM expression is upregulated in solid epithelial cancers and stem cells. EpCAM can also be found in disseminated tumour cells and circulating tumour cells. Various OMICs studies have demonstrated that EpCAM plays roles in several key biological processes such as cell adhesion, migration, proliferation and differentiation. Additionally, EpCAM can be detected in the bodily fluid of cancer patients suggesting that EpCAM is a pathophysiologically relevant anti-tumour target as well as being utilized as a diagnostic/prognostic agent for a variety of cancers. This review will focus on the structure-features of EpCAM protein and discuss recent evidence on the pathological and physiological roles of EpCAM in modulating cell adhesion and signalling pathways in cancers as well as deliberating the clinical implication of EpCAM as a therapeutic target.
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