Encyclopedia of Cancer

2011 Edition
| Editors: Manfred Schwab

“Seed and Soil” Theory of Metastasis

Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-16483-5_5215


A theory proposed to explain the metastatic preference of cancer cells for specific organs is called the “seed and soil” theory, the cancer cells being the “seeds” and the specific organ microenvironments being the “soil.” Interaction between the “seeds” and the “soil” determines the formation of a secondary tumor.


Historical Development of the “Seed and Soil” Theory

Metastasis is the spread of a cancer from its primary location to distant sites in the body, forming the secondary tumors. When cancer cells metastasize, they usually do so to preferential organs, depending on the type of cancer. For example, breast cancer cells usually metastasize to the lymph nodes, bones, lungs, liver, and brain; colon cancer cells often metastasize to the lymph nodes and liver.

The propensity of certain organs to harbor metastatic tumors was noticed in the middle of nineteenth century. When Fuchs studied the metastasis pattern of uveal melanoma in 1882, he found that a...

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratory of Cancer GeneticsVan Andel Research InstituteGrand RapidsUSA
  2. 2.Health Sciences Research Center, Faculty of Health SciencesUniversity of Beira InteriorCovilhaPortugal