EMT in breast cancer metastasis: an interplay of microRNAs, signaling pathways and circulating tumor cells

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2020 Mar 1;25(5):979-1010. doi: 10.2741/4844.


Epithelial to Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) is a biological process characterized by the transition from immotile epithelial cells to motile mesenchymal cells. Though shown to be implicated in many biological processes, it has also been identified to enhance migration and invasion of cancer cells leading to metastasis. A class of microRNAs called "oncomiRs" plays a significant role in the regulation of malignant transformation and metastasis. In this review, the ability of different signaling pathways in controlling EMT through well-defined regulatory networks, and the role exerted by oncomiRs in regulating the specific signaling pathways like TGF-β, Wnt, Notch and Hedgehog in modulating breast cancer metastasis have been discussed with updated information. Further, this review focuses on the significance of up and down regulated microRNAs in the pathogenesis and progression of breast cancer and how such microRNAs could be treated as potential therapeutic targets to circumvent cancer. As a prospective strategy, we highlight the importance of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) and their derived microRNAs as prognostic indicators and cancer therapy monitoring tools.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / genetics*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • MicroRNAs / genetics*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / pathology
  • Precision Medicine / methods
  • Signal Transduction / genetics*


  • MicroRNAs