Organotropism: new insights into molecular mechanisms of breast cancer metastasis

Wenjing Chen, Andrew D. Hoffmann, Huiping Liu, Xia Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

198 Scopus citations


Metastasis accounts for 90% of breast cancer mortality. Despite the significant progress made over the past decade in cancer medicine our understanding of metastasis remains limited, therefore preventing and targeting metastasis is not yet possible. Breast cancer cells preferentially metastasize to specific organs, known as “organotropic metastasis”, which is regulated by subtypes of breast cancer, host organ microenvironment, and cancer cells-organ interactions. The cross-talk between cancer cells and host organs facilitates the formation of the premetastatic niche and is augmented by factors released from cancer cells prior to the cancer cells’ arrival at the host organ. Moreover, host microenvironment and specific organ structure influence metastatic niche formation and interactions between cancer cells and local resident cells, regulating the survival of cancer cells and formation of metastatic lesions. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of organotropic metastasis is essential for biomarker-based prediction and prognosis, development of innovative therapeutic strategy, and eventual improvement of patient outcomes. In this review, we summarize the molecular mechanisms of breast cancer organotropic metastasis by focusing on tumor cell molecular alterations, stemness features, and cross-talk with the host environment. In addition, we also update some new progresses on our understanding about genetic and epigenetic alterations, exosomes, microRNAs, circulating tumor cells and immune response in breast cancer organotropic metastasis.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Journalnpj Precision Oncology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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