Abstract

 

Mucins are high-molecular-weight epithelial glycoproteins and are implicated in many physiological processes, including epithelial-cell protection, signaling transduction, and tissue homeostasis. Abnormality of mucus expression and structure contributes to biological properties related to human cancer progression. Tumor growth sites induce inhospitable conditions. Many kinds of research suggest that mucins provide a microenvironment to avoid hypoxia, acidic, and other biological conditions that promote cancer progression. Given that the mucus layer captures growth factors or cytokines, we propose that mucin helps to ameliorate inhospitable conditions in tumor-growing sites. Additionally, the composition and structure of mucins enable them to mimic the surface of normal epithelial cells, allowing tumor cells to escape from immune surveillance. Indeed, human cancers such as mucinous carcinoma show a higher incidence of invasion to adjacent organs and lymph node metastasis than do non-mucinous carcinoma. In this mini-review, we discuss how mucin provides a tumor-friendly environment and contributes to increased cancer malignancy in mucinous carcinoma.