Vimentin in cancer and its potential as a molecular target for cancer therapy
Vimentin, a major constituent of the intermediate filament family of proteins, is ubiquitously expressed in normal mesenchymal cells and is known to maintain cellular integrity and provide resistance against stress. Vimentin is overexpressed in various epithelial cancers, including prostate cancer, gastrointestinal tumors, tumors of the central nervous system, breast cancer, malignant melanoma, and lung cancer. Vimentin’s overexpression in cancer correlates well with accelerated tumor growth, invasion, and poor prognosis; however, the role of vimentin in cancer progression remains obscure. In recent years, vimentin has been recognized as a marker for epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT). Although EMT is associated with several tumorigenic events, vimentin’s role in the underlying events mediating these processes remains unknown. By virtue of its overexpression in cancer and its association with tumor growth and metastasis, vimentin serves as an attractive potential target for cancer therapy; however, more research would be crucial to evaluate its specific role in cancer. Our recent discovery of a vimentin-binding mini-peptide has generated further impetus for vimentin-targeted tumor-specific therapy. Furthermore, research directed toward elucidating the role of vimentin in various signaling pathways would reveal new approaches for the development of therapeutic agents. This review summarizes the expression and functions of vimentin in various types of cancer and suggests some directions toward future cancer therapy utilizing vimentin as a potential molecular target.