Cellular programs coupled to cycles of epithelial-mesenchymal transitions (EMTs) play critical roles during embryogenesis, as well as during tissue development, remodeling, and repair. Research over the last decade has established the importance of an ever-expanding list of master EMT transcription factors, whose activity is regulated by STAT3 and function to stimulate the rapid transition of cells between epithelial and mesenchymal phenotypes. Importantly, inappropriate reactivation of embryonic EMT programs in carcinoma cells underlies their metastasis to distant organ sites, as well as their acquisition of stem cell-like and chemoresistant phenotypes operant in eliciting disease recurrence. Thus, targeted inactivation of master EMT transcription factors may offer new inroads to alleviate metastatic disease. Here we review the molecular, cellular, and microenvironmental factors that contribute to the pathophysiological activities of STAT3 during its regulation of EMT programs in human carcinomas.
Keywords: EGFR; EMP; EMT; STAT3; TGF-β; extracellular matrix; metastasis; signal transduction; tumor microenvironment.