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Identifying site-specific metastasis genes and functions.

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Cancer Biology and Genetics Program and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York 10021, USA.


Metastasis is a multistep and multifunctional biological cascade that is the final and most life-threatening stage of cancer progression. Understanding the biological underpinnings of this complex process is of extreme clinical relevance and requires unbiased and comprehensive biological scrutiny. In recent years, we have utilized a xenograft model of breast cancer metastasis to discover genes that mediate organ-specific patterns of metastatic colonization. Examination of transcriptomic data from cohorts of primary breast cancers revealed a subset of site-specific metastasis genes that are selected for early in tumor progression. High expression of these genes predicts the propensity for lung metastasis independently of several classic markers of poor prognosis. These genes fulfill dual functions-enhanced primary tumorigenicity and augmented organ-specific metastatic activity. Other metastasis genes fulfill functions specialized for the microenvironment of the metastatic site and are consequently not selected for in primary tumors. These findings improve our understanding of metastatic progression, facilitate the interpretation of primary tumor gene expression data, and open several important possibilities for future clinical application.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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