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Mol Oncol. 2013 Apr;7(2):283-96. doi: 10.1016/j.molonc.2013.02.009. Epub 2013 Feb 20.

Rebuilding cancer metastasis in the mouse.

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Department of Biomedicine, University of Basel, Mattenstrasse 28, 4058 Basel, Switzerland.


Most cancer deaths are due to the systemic dissemination of cancer cells and the formation of secondary tumors (metastasis) in distant organs. Recent years have brought impressive progress in metastasis research, yet we still lack sufficient insights into how cancer cells migrate out of primary tumors and invade into neighboring tissue, intravasate into the blood or the lymphatic circulation, survive in the blood stream, and target specific organs to initiate metastatic outgrowth. While a large number of cellular and animal models of cancer have been crucial in delineating the molecular mechanisms underlying tumor initiation and progression, experimental models that faithfully recapitulate the multiple stages of metastatic disease are still scarce. The advent of sophisticated genetic engineering in mice, in particular the ability to manipulate gene expression in specific tissue and at desired time points at will, have allowed to rebuild the metastatic process in mice. Here, we describe a selection of cellular experimental systems, tumor transplantation mouse models and genetically engineered mouse models that are used for monitoring specific processes involved in metastasis, such as cell migration and invasion, and for investigating the full metastatic process. Such models not only aid in deciphering the pathomechanisms of metastasis, but are also instrumental for the preclinical testing of anti-metastatic therapies and further refinement and generation of improved models.

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