Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and cancer stem cells contribute to breast cancer heterogeneity

Deli Hong, Andrew J. Fritz, Sayyed K. Zaidi, Andre J. van Wijnen, Jeffrey A. Nickerson, Anthony N. Imbalzano, Jane B. Lian, Janet L. Stein, Gary S. Stein

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, and accounts for ~30% of new cancer cases and 15% of cancer-related deaths. Tumor relapse and metastasis are primary factors contributing to breast cancer-related deaths. Therefore, the challenge for breast cancer treatment is to sustain remission. A driving force behind tumor relapse is breast cancer heterogeneity (both intertumor, between different patients, and intratumor, within the same tumor). Understanding breast cancer heterogeneity is necessary to develop preventive interventions and targeted therapies. A recently emerging concept is that intratumor heterogeneity is driven by cancer stem cells (CSCs) that are capable of giving rise to a multitude of different cells within a tumor. Studies have highlighted linkage of CSC formation with epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). In this review, we summarize the current understanding of breast cancer heterogeneity, links between EMT and CSCs, regulation of EMT by Runx transcription factors, and potential therapeutic strategies targeting these processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9136-9144
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Cellular Physiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • breast cancer
  • cancer stem cell (CSC)
  • epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT)
  • tumor heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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