Translational research in brain metastasis is identifying molecular pathways that may lead to the development of new therapeutic strategies

Eur J Cancer. 2010 May;46(7):1204-10. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2010.02.033. Epub 2010 Mar 19.


Central nervous system (CNS) or brain metastasis is an emerging area of interest in organ-specific metastasis research. Lung and breast cancers are the most common types of primary tumors to develop brain metastases. This disease complication contributes significantly to the morbidity and mortality of both of these common cancers; as such, brain metastasis is designated an unmet medical need by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Recently, an increase in incidence of CNS disease has been noted in the literature for breast cancer, while it has been an ongoing major complication from lung cancer. Progress in treating brain metastases has been hampered by a lack of model systems, a lack of human tissue samples, and the exclusion of brain metastatic patients from many clinical trials. While each of those is significant, the major impediment to effectively treating brain metastatic disease is the blood-brain barrier (BBB). This barrier excludes most chemotherapeutics from the brain and creates a sanctuary site for metastatic tumors. Recent findings on the biology of this disease and translational leads identified by molecular studies are discussed in this article.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Brain Neoplasms / genetics
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / secondary
  • Carcinoma, Small Cell / secondary
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling / methods
  • Humans
  • Integrins / physiology
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology
  • Receptor, ErbB-2 / physiology
  • Translational Medical Research / methods


  • Integrins
  • Receptor, ErbB-2