[Epithelial-mesenchymal transition in cancer progression]

Monika Gos, Joanna Miłoszewska, Małgorzata Przybyszewska
Postepy Biochemii 2009, 55 (2): 121-8
According to recently published data, the epithelial-mesenchymal transition--a process important for embryonic development, may be involved in many pathological processes such as wound healing, tissue fibrosis or cancer progression. The EMT process in cell is driven by growth factors (EGF, PDGF, HGF) or other signaling proteins such as TGF-beta, sonic hedgehog (Shh), Wnt/beta-catenin and extracellular matrix (ECM) components that may stimulate cellular growth and migration. During cancer progression, the EMT process is necessary to the conversion of benign tumor to aggressive and highly invasive cancer. This is due to complex changes in cancer cells and their microenvironment that lead to dissolution of intracellular junctions and their detachment from basolateral membrane, and changes in the interactions between cancer cells and ECM. The loss of adhesion is accompanied by molecular and morphologic changes in cancer cells that are essential for the phenotypic change from epithelial to mesenchymal one, and the acquirement of higher migration and invasion potential. During the colonization of distant sites, a reverse process mesenchymal-epithelial transition (MET) takes place and metastatic cancer cells again acquire the epithelial phenotype. The EMT in cancer progression is not only specific for cancer cells. It has been suggested that also cells within tumor microenvironment e.g. cancer associated fibroblasts (CAF) are generated in part from normal epithelial cells in EMT process. The understanding of the role of EMT and MET processes in cancer progression and their relationship with cancer stem cells, cancer associated fibroblasts and other stroma cells might lead to the discovery of new, targeted cancer therapies.

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