Molecules and Cells

, Volume 30, Issue 2, pp 93–98 | Cite as

The brain microenvironment and cancer metastasis

  • Isaiah J. FidlerEmail author
  • Krishnakumar Balasubramanian
  • Qingtang Lin
  • Seung Wook Kim
  • Sun-Jin Kim


The process of metastasis consists of a series of sequential, selective steps that few cells can complete. The outcome of cancer metastasis depends on multiple interactions between metastatic cells and homeostatic mechanisms that are unique to one or another organ microenvironment. The specific organ microenvironment determines the extent of cancer cell proliferation, angiogenesis, invasion and survival. Many lung cancer, breast cancer, and melanoma patients develop fatal brain metastases that do not respond to therapy. The blood-brain barrier is intact in and around brain metastases that are smaller than 0.25 mm in diameter. Although the blood-brain barrier is leaky in larger metastases, the lesions are resistant to many chemotherapeutic drugs. Activated astrocytes surround and infiltrate brain metastases. The physiological role of astrocytes is to protect against neurotoxicity. Our current data demonstrate that activated astrocytes also protect tumor cells against chemotherapeutic drugs.


astrocytes brain metastasis organ microenvironment seed and soil hypothesis 


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Copyright information

© The Korean Society for Molecular and Cellular Biology and Springer Netherlands 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Isaiah J. Fidler
    • 1
    Email author
  • Krishnakumar Balasubramanian
    • 1
  • Qingtang Lin
    • 1
  • Seung Wook Kim
    • 1
  • Sun-Jin Kim
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Cancer Biology, Cancer Metastasis Research CenterThe University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer CenterHoustonUSA

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