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Occurrence and significance of epithelial-mesenchymal transition in breast cancer
  1. Ioannis Roxanis
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ioannis Roxanis, Department of Cellular Pathology, Oxford University Hospitals and NIHR Biomedical Research Centre Oxford, John Radcliffe Hospital, Headley Way, Headington, Oxford OX3 9DU, UK; Ioannis.Roxanis{at}


By contrast with developmental epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), where epithelial characteristics undergo transformation to a mesenchymal-like phenotype in a coordinated fashion, oncogenic EMT occurs in the context of unpredictable genetic changes present in the tumour cells, as well as an abnormal tumour microenvironment. Therefore, a partial form of EMT has been proposed as variably participating in the establishment of invasive phenotype in different types of breast carcinoma, in keeping with their morphological and phenotypical diversity. A complex network of signalling pathways and transcription factors appears responding to various growth factors and cytokines released by stromal and neoplastic elements, endowing the system with abundant regulatory opportunities. The process of EMT is largely elusive in histopathological preparations, prompting doubts regarding its significance in tumour progression. This might be related to the presumed focal occurrence of EMT in the majority of tumours. Detailed topological studies might facilitate understanding of the orchestration of events taking place in vivo. Even more importantly, clinical correlations can be endeavoured and, in parallel with advancement in molecular pathology, a contribution to taxonomy refinement can be envisaged.

  • Breast Cancer
  • Breast Pathology
  • Cancer Research
  • Histopathology
  • Tumour Biology

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