Cancer metastasis may be regarded as a progressive process from its inception in the primary tumor microenvironment to distant sites by way of the lymphovascular system. Although this type of tumor dissemination often occurs in an orderly fashion via the sentinel lymph node (SLN), acting as a possible gateway to the regional lymph nodes, bone marrow, and peripheral blood and ultimately to distant metastatic sites, this is not a general rule as tumor cells may enter the blood and spread to distant sites, bypassing the SLN. Methods of detecting micrometastatic cancer cells in the SLN, bone marrow, and peripheral blood of patients have been established. Patients with cancer cells in their SLN, bone marrow, or peripheral blood have worse clinical outcomes than patients with no evidence of spread to these compartments. The presence of these cells also has important biologic implications for disease progression and the clinician's understanding of the process of cancer metastasis. Further characterization of these micrometastatic cancer cells at each stage and site of metastasis is needed to design novel selective therapies for a more "personalized" treatment.
Keywords: cancer metastasis.
© 2014 American Cancer Society, Inc.