The role of the tissue microenvironment in the regulation of cancer cell motility and invasion

Cell Commun Signal. 2010 Sep 7:8:22. doi: 10.1186/1478-811X-8-22.


During malignant neoplastic progression the cells undergo genetic and epigenetic cancer-specific alterations that finally lead to a loss of tissue homeostasis and restructuring of the microenvironment. The invasion of cancer cells through connective tissue is a crucial prerequisite for metastasis formation. Although cell invasion is foremost a mechanical process, cancer research has focused largely on gene regulation and signaling that underlie uncontrolled cell growth. More recently, the genes and signals involved in the invasion and transendothelial migration of cancer cells, such as the role of adhesion molecules and matrix degrading enzymes, have become the focus of research. In this review we discuss how the structural and biomechanical properties of extracellular matrix and surrounding cells such as endothelial cells influence cancer cell motility and invasion. We conclude that the microenvironment is a critical determinant of the migration strategy and the efficiency of cancer cell invasion.