CD44 designates a large family of proteins generated from one gene by alternative splicing. Variants of CD44 (CD44v) differ from the standard form (CD44s) by usage of ten variant exons in various combinations. Some variants have been causally related to the metastatic spread of rat tumor cells. In human mammary carcinomas and colorectal carcinomas, the expression of CD44v has also been correlated with more progressed tumor stages. Moreover, the expression of CD44v on mammary and colorectal carcinomas correlates with a bad prognosis for patient survival. The biochemical features of these CD44 isoforms that may account for both their normal functions and their roles in tumor progression are discussed.