Cell lineage determinants as regulators of breast cancer metastasis

Wei Lu, Yibin Kang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The mammary epithelium is organized in a hierarchy of mammary stem cells (MaSCs), progenitors, and differentiated cells. The development and homeostasis of mammary gland are tightly controlled by a complex network of cell lineage regulators. These determinants of cellular hierarchy are frequently deregulated in breast tumor cells and closely associated with cancer progression and metastasis. They also contribute to the diversity of breast cancer subtypes and their distinct metastatic patterns. Cell fate regulators that normally promote stem/progenitor activities can serve as drivers for epithelial-mesenchymal transition and metastasis whereas regulators that promote terminal differentiation generally suppress metastasis. In this review, we discuss how some of the key factors function in normal mammary lineage determination and how these processes are hijacked by tumor cells to enhance metastasis. Understanding the molecular connections between normal development and cancer metastasis will enable the development of more specific and effective therapeutic approaches targeting metastatic tumor cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-644
Number of pages14
JournalCancer and Metastasis Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


  • Breast cancer
  • EMT
  • Lineage determinant
  • Luminal progenitor
  • Mammary stem cell
  • Metastasis


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