Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology

, Volume 141, Issue 10, pp 1697–1713 | Cite as

The network of epithelial–mesenchymal transition: potential new targets for tumor resistance

  • Danupon Nantajit
  • Dong Lin
  • Jian Jian Li
Review – Cancer Research



In multiple cell metazoans, the ability of polarized epithelial cells to convert to motile mesenchymal cells in order to relocate to another location is governed by a unique process termed epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT). While being an essential process of cellular plasticity for normal tissue and organ developments, EMT is found to be involved in an array of malignant phenotypes of tumor cells including proliferation and invasion, angiogenesis, stemness of cancer cells and resistance to chemo-radiotherapy. Although EMT is being extensively studied and demonstrated to play a key role in tumor metastasis and in sustaining tumor hallmarks, there is a lack of clear picture of the overall EMT signaling network, wavering the potential clinical trials targeting EMT.


In this review, we highlight the potential key therapeutic targets of EMT linked with tumor aggressiveness, hypoxia, angiogenesis and cancer stem cells, emphasizing on an emerging EMT-associated NF-κB/HER2/STAT3 pathway in radioresistance of breast cancer stem cells.


Further definition of cancer stem cell repopulation due to EMT-controlled tumor microenvironment will help to understand how tumors exploit the EMT mechanisms for their survival and expansion advantages.


The knowledge of EMT will offer more effective targets in clinical trials to treat therapy-resistant metastatic lesions.


Epithelial–mesenchymal transition Metastasis Cancer stem cell Tumor aggressiveness Therapeutic resistance 



We apologize for not being able to cite many important articles due to space restrictions. We thank Dr. Colleen Sweeney at University of California Davis and Dr. Max Wicha at University of Michigan for constructive discussion on breast cancer research. DN is supported by Chulabhorn Foundation of Thailand. The research projects in the laboratory of the authors have been supported by NIH NCI Grants CA133402 and CA152313, as well as a Grant from the US Department of Energy Office of Science DE-SC0001271 to JL.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Radiation Oncology UnitChulabhorn HospitalBangkokThailand
  2. 2.Department of Radiation OncologyUniversity of California Davis School of MedicineSacramentoUSA
  3. 3.NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer CenterUniversity of California Davis School of MedicineSacramentoUSA

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