With the exception of non-melanoma skin cancer, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed malignant disease among women, with the majority of mortality being attributable to metastatic disease. Thus, even with improved early screening and more targeted treatments which may enable better detection and control of early disease progression, metastatic disease remains a significant problem. While targeted therapies exist for breast cancer patients with particular subtypes of the disease (Her2+ and ER/PR+), even in these subtypes the therapies are often not efficacious once the patient’s tumor metastasizes. Increases in stemness or epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in primary breast cancer cells lead to enhanced plasticity, enabling tumor progression, therapeutic resistance, and distant metastatic spread. Numerous signaling pathways, including MAPK, PI3K, STAT3, Wnt, Hedgehog, and Notch, amongst others, play a critical role in maintaining cell plasticity in breast cancer. Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate breast cancer cell plasticity is essential for understanding the biology of breast cancer progression and for developing novel and more effective therapeutic strategies for targeting metastatic disease. In this review we summarize relevant literature on mechanisms associated with breast cancer plasticity, tumor progression, and drug resistance.
Copyright © 2020 Kong, Hughes and Ford.