Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, circulating tumor cells and cancer metastasis: Mechanisms and clinical applications

Xiao-Xiang Jie, Xiao-Yan Zhang _ and Cong-Jian Xu

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:81558-81571. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.18277

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Xiao-Xiang Jie1,2,3, Xiao-Yan Zhang1,2,3 and Cong-Jian Xu1,2,3,4

1Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital, Fudan University, Shanghai 200011, People’s Republic of China

2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology of Shanghai Medical School, Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, People’s Republic of China

3Shanghai Key Laboratory of Female Reproductive Endocrine Related Diseases, Shanghai 200011, People’s Republic of China

4Institute of Biomedical Sciences, Fudan University, Shanghai 200032, People’s Republic of China

Correspondence to:

Xiao-Yan Zhang, email: [email protected]

Cong-Jian Xu, email: [email protected]

Keywords: epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, circulating tumor cells, metastasis, EMT markers

Received: March 29, 2017     Accepted: May 10, 2017     Published: May 26, 2017


Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) endows epithelial cells with enhanced motility and invasiveness, allowing them to participate in many physiological and pathological processes. Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition contributes to the generation of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) in epithelial cancers because it increases tumor cell invasiveness, promotes tumor cell intravasation and ensures tumor cell survival in the peripheral system. Although the contribution of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition to tumor cell invasiveness has been confirmed, the role epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition plays in metastasis remains debated. As a favorable material for a “liquid biopsy”, circulating tumor cells have been shown to have promising values in the clinical management of tumors. Furthermore, an increasing number of studies have begun to explore the value of CTC-related biomarkers, and some studies have found that the expression of EMT and stemness markers in circulating tumor cells, in addition to CTC detection, can provide more information on tumor diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and research.

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