Molecular and pathological signatures of epithelial-mesenchymal transitions at the cancer invasion front

Histochem Cell Biol. 2008 Sep;130(3):481-94. doi: 10.1007/s00418-008-0464-1. Epub 2008 Jul 22.


Reduction of epithelial cell-cell adhesion via the transcriptional repression of cadherins in combination with the acquisition of mesenchymal properties are key determinants of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). EMT is associated with early stages of carcinogenesis, cancer invasion and recurrence. Furthermore, the tumor stroma dictates EMT through intensive bidirectional communication. The pathological analysis of EMT signatures is critically, especially to determine the presence of cancer cells at the resection margins of a tumor. When diffusion barriers disappear, EMT markers may be detected in sera from cancer patients. The detection of EMT signatures is not only important for diagnosis but can also be exploited to enhance classical chemotherapy treatments. In conclusion, further detailed understanding of the contextual cues and molecular mediators that control EMT will be required in order to develop diagnostic tools and small molecule inhibitors with potential clinical implications.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Body Fluids
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Space / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology*