Metastasis: a question of life or death

Nat Rev Cancer. 2006 Jun;6(6):449-58. doi: 10.1038/nrc1886.


The metastatic process is highly inefficient--very few of the many cells that migrate from the primary tumour successfully colonize distant sites. One proposed mechanism to explain this inefficiency is provided by the cancer stem cell model, which hypothesizes that micrometastases can only be established by tumour stem cells, which are few in number. However, recent in vitro and in vivo observations indicate that apoptosis is an important process regulating metastasis. Here we stress that the inhibition of cell death, apart from its extensively described function in primary tumour development, is a crucial characteristic of metastatic cancer cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Metastasis*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*