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Breast Cancer Res. 2016 Jan 19;18(1):8. doi: 10.1186/s13058-015-0665-1.

Breast cancer brain metastases: biology and new clinical perspectives.

Author information

1
Department of Gynecology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Martinistraße 52, 20246, Hamburg, Germany. iwitzel@uke.de.
2
Department of Gynecology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Martinistraße 52, 20246, Hamburg, Germany. ferrer@uke.de.
3
Institute of Tumour Biology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Center of Experimental Medicine, Martinistraße 52, 20246, Hamburg, Germany. pantel@uke.de.
4
Department of Gynecology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Martinistraße 52, 20246, Hamburg, Germany. v.mueller@uke.de.
5
Institute of Tumour Biology, University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Center of Experimental Medicine, Martinistraße 52, 20246, Hamburg, Germany. h.wikman@uke.de.

Abstract

Because of improvements in the treatment of patients with metastatic breast cancer, the development of brain metastases (BM) has become a major limitation of life expectancy and quality of life for many breast cancer patients. The improvement of management strategies for BM is thus an important clinical challenge, especially among high-risk patients such as human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive and triple-negative patients. However, the formation of BM as a multistep process is thus far poorly understood. To grow in the brain, single tumor cells must pass through the tight blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB represents an obstacle for circulating tumor cells entering the brain, but it also plays a protective role against immune cell and toxic agents once metastatic cells have colonized the cerebral compartment. Furthermore, animal studies have shown that, after passing the BBB, the tumor cells not only require close contact with endothelial cells but also interact closely with many different brain residential cells. Thus, in addition to a genetic predisposition of the tumor cells, cellular adaptation processes within the new microenvironment may also determine the ability of a tumor cell to metastasize. In this review, we summarize the biology of breast cancer that has spread into the brain and discuss the implications for current and potential future treatment strategies.

PMID:
26781299
PMCID:
PMC4717619
DOI:
10.1186/s13058-015-0665-1
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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