Reactive Astrocytes in Brain Metastasis

Front Oncol. 2017 Dec 11;7:298. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2017.00298. eCollection 2017.


Brain metastasis, the secondary growth of malignant cells within the central nervous system (CNS), exceeds the incidence of primary brain tumors (i.e., gliomas) by tenfold and are seemingly on the rise owing to the emergence of novel targeted therapies that are more effective in controlling extracranial disease relatively to intracranial lesions. Despite the fact that metastasis to the brain poses a unmet clinical problem, with afflicted patients carrying significant morbidity and a fatal prognosis, our knowledge as to how metastatic cells manage to adapt to the tissue environment of the CNS remains limited. Answering this question could pave the way for novel and more specific therapeutic modalities in brain metastasis by targeting the specific makeup of the brain metastatic niche. In regard to this, astrocytes have emerged as the major host cell type that cancer cells encounter and interact with during brain metastasis formation. Similarly to other CNS disorders, astrocytes become reactive and respond to the presence of cancer cells by changing their phenotype and significantly influencing the outcome of disseminated cancer cells within the CNS. Here, we summarize the current knowledge on the contribution of reactive astrocytes in brain metastasis by focusing on the signaling pathways and types of interactions that play a crucial part in the communication with cancer cells and how these could be translated into innovative therapies.

Keywords: astrocyte signaling; brain metastasis; metastases therapy; microenvironment heterogeneity; reactive astrocytes.

Publication types

  • Review