Transitions between epithelial and mesenchymal states: acquisition of malignant and stem cell traits

Nat Rev Cancer. 2009 Apr;9(4):265-73. doi: 10.1038/nrc2620. Epub 2009 Mar 5.


Transitions between epithelial and mesenchymal states have crucial roles in embryonic development. Emerging data suggest a role for these processes in regulating cellular plasticity in normal adult tissues and in tumours, where they can generate multiple, distinct cellular subpopulations contributing to intratumoural heterogeneity. Some of these subpopulations may exhibit more differentiated features, whereas others have characteristics of stem cells. Owing to the importance of these tumour-associated phenotypes in metastasis and cancer-related mortality, targeting the products of such cellular plasticity is an attractive but challenging approach that is likely to lead to improved clinical management of cancer patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Mesoderm / chemistry*
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Signal Transduction