Syndecan-1 is a transmembrane proteoglycan expressed on the surface of tumor cells of various origins including myeloma, Hodgkin's disease, and certain human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) associated lymphomas. Functional studies in myeloma reveal that syndecan-1 may act as a multifunctional regulator of cell behavior in the tumor microenvironment; it mediates cell-cell adhesion, binding of myeloma cells to type I collagen, and inhibits tumor cell invasion into collagen gels. In addition, syndecan-1 is released from the surface of myeloma cells and this shed form of the molecule inhibits growth and induces apoptosis of myeloma cells and may modulate myeloma bone disease by inhibiting osteoclast formation and promoting osteoblast formation. In view of its effects on tumor cell growth, survival, adhesion and invasion and on bone cell differentiation, syndecan-1 may be an important potentially beneficial regulator of myeloma pathobiology. Further studies are needed to define the clinical significance of syndecan-1 in myeloma and to examine its functional significance in other lymphoid malignancies.