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Inflammatory Breast Cancer: a model for investigating cluster-based dissemination

By Mohit Kumar Jolly, Marcelo Boareto, Bisrat G Debeb, Nicola Aceto, Mary C Farach-Carson, Wendy A. Woodward, Herbert Levine

Posted 22 Mar 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/119479 (published DOI: 10.1038/s41523-017-0023-9)

Metastases claim more than 90% of cancer-related deaths and are usually seeded by a subset of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) shed off from the primary tumor. In circulation, CTCs are found both as single cells and as clusters of cells. The clusters of cells, although many fewer in number, possess much higher metastatic potential as compared to that of individual CTCs. In this review, we highlight recent insights into molecular mechanisms that can enable formation of these clusters - (a) hybrid epithelial-mesenchymal (E/M) phenotype of cells that couples their ability to migrate and adhere, and (b) intercellular communication that can spatially coordinate the cluster formation and provide survival signals to cancer cells. Building upon these molecular mechanisms, we also offer a possible mechanistic understanding of why clusters are endowed with a higher metastatic potential. Finally, we discuss the highly aggressive Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) as an example of a carcinoma that can metastasize via clusters and corroborates the proposed molecular mechanisms.

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