Cluster of differentiation 44 (CD44) encompasses a polymorphic family of cell membrane glycoproteins involved in the mechanism of tumour invasion and metastasis. Since non‐small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and small cell lung cancer (SCLC) display very different rates of progression, a significant discrepancy in their CD44 expression profiles is to be expected. An immunohistochemical study was undertaken on the expression of standard CD44 (CD44s) and the variant isoforms containing the domains encoded by variant exon 3 (CD44v3) or variant exon 6 (CD44v6) in paraffin‐embedded bronchial biopsy specimens from 32 NSCLC cases and 11 SCLC cases. An absolute lack of immunoreactivity for CD44s, CD44v3, and CD44v6 was obtained in every case of SCLC, whereas 28 of the 32 NSCLC cases showed a positive immunoreaction for at least one of the three epitopes investigated. In conclusion, the occurrence of standard and variant CD44 isoforms in NSCLC and their absence in SCLC suggest the possibility that CD44 is in some way instrumental in conditioning the biological behaviour of NSCLC, but not of SCLC, whose metastatic cascade would be set in motion by the activation of hitherto unidentified, CD44‐independent pathways. Copyright © 1995 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
- non‐small cell
- small cell