OB-cadherin is widely distributed in the body as a cell-to-cell signaling and cell adhesion molecule, most notably in bone, where it is found on the bone cells that constantly remodel and maintain the structural integrity of bone. Adherex is interested in OB-cadherin due to its probable importance in certain mechanisms of tumor spread to bone.
Malignant tumors can spread throughout the body in two ways: direct invasion of nearby structures as the tumor grows, or metastatic spread to sites distant from the original tumor. Metastatic spread is a major determinant of a patient's survival and quality of life. It can happen when tumor cells detach from the primary cancer and move through the circulation and tissue barriers and begin to grow at another site. OB-cadherin is reported to be involved through several mechanisms in the metastatic spread of certain cancers to sites distant from the original tumor. Adherex has developed OB-cadherin peptides and small molecule antagonists with the potential to reduce or slow down the metastatic spread of tumors, such as breast and prostate cancers.