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A Perspective on Cancer Cell Metastasis

Science, 25 March 2011
Vol. 331, Issue 6024, p. 1559-1564
DOI: 10.1126/science.1203543

A Perspective on Cancer Cell Metastasis

  1. Christine L. Chaffer1,3,*,
  2. Robert A. Weinberg1,2,3,*
  1. 1Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, 9 Cambridge Center, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA.
  2. 2Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
  3. 3Ludwig MIT Center for Molecular Oncology, Cambridge, MA 02139, USA.
  1. *To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: weinberg{at} (R.A.W.); chaffer{at} (C.L.C.)


Metastasis causes most cancer deaths, yet this process remains one of the most enigmatic aspects of the disease. Building on new mechanistic insights emerging from recent research, we offer our perspective on the metastatic process and reflect on possible paths of future exploration. We suggest that metastasis can be portrayed as a two-phase process: The first phase involves the physical translocation of a cancer cell to a distant organ, whereas the second encompasses the ability of the cancer cell to develop into a metastatic lesion at that distant site. Although much remains to be learned about the second phase, we feel that an understanding of the first phase is now within sight, due in part to a better understanding of how cancer cell behavior can be modified by a cell-biological program called the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition.


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