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Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2007 Dec;26(3-4):635-43.

Breast cancer brain metastases.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, TX 77030, USA.


Breast cancer is the most common malignancy in woman in the USA. Metastasis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in breast cancer patients. Total incidence of brain metastases of breast cancer is about 30%. Because of the improvements in control of systemic disease, for example the successful use of Trastuzumab, and the consequent prolonged life span, the incidence of brain metastases is increasing in breast cancer patients. The progressive neurological disabilities not only impair the quality of life, but also decrease the survival in patients. However, current treatments are of limited effectiveness. This is partially caused by the unique structure of the blood brain barrier. So far very little is known about the mechanisms how breast cancer metastizes to the brain. Some studies showed that ErbB2 overexpression is associated with the brain metastatic phenotype. Other molecules, like vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and chemokine receptor CXCR4 are also involved in the metastasis of breast cancer cell to the brain. The current review will briefly overview the clinical features of brain metastasis of breast cancer and discusses the relationship of blood brain barrier and ErbB2 signal pathway to brain metastasis in breast cancer.

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