Metastasis is responsible for a large majority of death from malignant solid tumors. Bone is one of the most frequently affected organs in cancer metastasis, especially in breast and prostate cancer. Development of bone metastasis requires cancer cells to successfully complete a number of challenging steps, including local invasion and intravasation, survival in circulation, extravasation and initial seeding, and finally, formation of metastatic colonies after a period of dormancy or indolent growth. During this process, cancer cells often undergo a series of cellular and molecular changes to gain cellular plasticity that helps them adapt to various environments they encounter along the journey of metastasis. Understanding the mechanisms behind cellular plasticity and adaptation during the formation of bone metastasis is crucial for the development of novel therapies.

Immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy is generating remarkable responses in individuals with cancer, but only a small portion of individuals with breast cancer respond well. Here we report that tumor-derived Jagged1 is a key regulator of the tumor immune microenvironment. Jagged1 promotes tumorigenesis in multiple spontaneous mammary tumor models. Through Jagged1-induced Notch activation, tumor cells increase expression and secretion of multiple cytokines to help recruit macrophages into the tumor microenvironment. Educated macrophages crosstalk with tumor-infiltrating T cells to inhibit T cell proliferation and tumoricidal activity. In individuals with triple-negative breast cancer, a high expression level of Jagged1 correlates with increased macrophage infiltration and decreased T cell activity. Co-administration of an ICI PD-1 antibody with a Notch inhibitor significantly inhibits tumor growth in breast cancer models. Our findings establish a distinct signaling cascade by which Jagged1 promotes adaptive immune evasion of tumor cells and provide several possible therapeutic targets.

Ligand-dependent corepressor (LCOR) mediates normal and malignant breast stem cell differentiation. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) generate phenotypic heterogeneity and drive therapy resistance, yet their role in immunotherapy is poorly understood. Here we show that immune-checkpoint blockade (ICB) therapy selects for LCOR CSCs with reduced antigen processing/presentation machinery (APM) driving immune escape and ICB resistance in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). We unveil an unexpected function of LCOR as a master transcriptional activator of APM genes binding to IFN-stimulated response elements (ISREs) in an IFN signaling-independent manner. Through genetic modification of LCOR expression, we demonstrate its central role in modulation of tumor immunogenicity and ICB responsiveness. In TNBC, LCOR associates with ICB clinical response. Importantly, extracellular vesicle (EV) Lcor-messenger RNA therapy in combination with anti-PD-L1 overcame resistance and eradicated breast cancer metastasis in preclinical models. Collectively, these data support LCOR as a promising target for enhancement of ICB efficacy in TNBC, by boosting of tumor APM independently of IFN.

Metastatic breast cancer is a leading health burden worldwide. Previous studies have shown that metadherin (MTDH) promotes breast cancer initiation, metastasis and therapy resistance; however, the therapeutic potential of targeting MTDH remains largely unexplored. Here, we used genetically modified mice and demonstrate that genetic ablation of Mtdh inhibits breast cancer development through disrupting the interaction with staphylococcal nuclease domain-containing 1 (SND1), which is required to sustain breast cancer progression in established tumors. We performed a small-molecule compound screening to identify a class of specific inhibitors that disrupts the protein-protein interaction (PPI) between MTDH and SND1 and show that our lead candidate compounds C26-A2 and C26-A6 suppressed tumor growth and metastasis and enhanced chemotherapy sensitivity in preclinical models of triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Our results demonstrate a significant therapeutic potential in targeting the MTDH-SND1 complex and identify a new class of therapeutic agents for metastatic breast cancer.

Despite increased overall survival rates, curative options for metastatic breast cancer remain limited. We have previously shown that metadherin (MTDH) is frequently overexpressed in poor prognosis breast cancer, where it promotes metastasis and therapy resistance through its interaction with staphylococcal nuclease domain-containing 1 (SND1). Through genetic and pharmacological targeting of the MTDH-SND1 interaction, we reveal a key role for this complex in suppressing antitumor T cell responses in breast cancer. The MTDH-SND1 complex reduces tumor antigen presentation and inhibits T cell infiltration and activation by binding to and destabilizing Tap1/2 messenger RNAs, which encode key components of the antigen-presentation machinery. Following small-molecule compound C26-A6 treatment to disrupt the MTDH-SND1 complex, we showed enhanced immune surveillance and sensitivity to anti-programmed cell death protein 1 therapy in preclinical models of metastatic breast cancer, in support of this combination therapy as a viable approach to increase immune-checkpoint blockade therapy responses in metastatic breast cancer.

Immunotherapy has limited success in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). In this issue of Cell Metabolism, Wang et al. found that microbial metabolite TMAO boosts CD8 T cell-mediated antitumor immunity by inducing pyroptosis in tumor cells, enhancing the efficacy of immunotherapy in TNBC (Wang et al., 2022).


The bone marrow has been widely recognised to host a unique microenvironment that facilitates tumour colonisation. Bone metastasis frequently occurs in the late stages of malignant diseases such as breast, prostate and lung cancers. The biology of bone metastasis is determined by tumour-cell-intrinsic traits as well as their interaction with the microenvironment. The bone marrow is a dynamic organ in which various stages of haematopoiesis, osteogenesis, osteolysis and different kinds of immune response are precisely regulated. These different cellular components constitute specialised tissue microenvironments-niches-that play critical roles in controlling tumour cell colonisation, including initial seeding, dormancy and outgrowth. In this review, we will dissect the dynamic nature of the interactions between tumour cells and bone niches. By targeting certain steps of tumour progression and crosstalk with the bone niches, the development of potential therapeutic approaches for the clinical treatment of bone metastasis might be feasible.

The systemic spread of tumor cells is the ultimate cause of the majority of deaths from cancer, yet few successful therapeutic strategies have emerged to specifically target metastasis. Here we discuss recent advances in our understanding of tumor-intrinsic pathways driving metastatic colonization and therapeutic resistance, as well as immune activating strategies to target metastatic disease. We focus on therapeutically exploitable mechanisms, promising strategies in preclinical and clinical development, and emerging areas with potential to become innovative treatments.

The complexity of intracellular signalling requires both a diversity of molecular players and the sequestration of activity to unique compartments within the cell. Recent findings on the role of liquid-liquid phase separation provide a distinct mechanism for the spatial segregation of proteins to regulate signalling pathway crosstalk. Here, we discover that DACT1 is induced by TGFβ and forms protein condensates in the cytoplasm to repress Wnt signalling. These condensates do not localize to any known organelles but, rather, exist as phase-separated proteinaceous cytoplasmic bodies. The deletion of intrinsically disordered domains within the DACT1 protein eliminates its ability to both form protein condensates and suppress Wnt signalling. Isolation and mass spectrometry analysis of these particles revealed a complex of protein machinery that sequesters casein kinase 2-a Wnt pathway activator. We further demonstrate that DACT1 condensates are maintained in vivo and that DACT1 is critical to breast and prostate cancer bone metastasis.

Loss of E-cadherin expression has been well known as a hallmark of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), which is linked to increased risk of cancer metastasis. However, it was less clear whether E-cadherin and its downstream signaling pathways are functionally involved in driving EMT and the prometastatic phenotype. A study by Onder and colleagues in 2008 discovered that E-cadherin loss not only helps tumor cells detach from each other by breaking down cell-cell junctions but also elicits intracellular signaling events to confer a mesenchymal cell state and metastatic phenotype. This study established E-cadherin as an important global regulator, rather than just a marker, of EMT. The discovery inspired further investigation in the following decade that significantly deepened our understanding of E-cadherin and its diverse functions and more broadly of cellular plasticity in different stages and contexts of cancer metastasis..

Selective pressure and signals from the tissue microenvironment drive metastasis and determine the survival of metastatic tumor cells at distant organs. Zhang et al. and Bado et al. apply CRISPR-mediated evolving barcode technology to elucidate the role of the bone microenvironment in the evolution of breast cancer metastasis.

Development of chemoresistance in breast cancer patients greatly increases mortality. Thus, understanding mechanisms underlying breast cancer resistance to chemotherapy is of paramount importance to overcome this clinical challenge. Although activated Notch receptors have been associated with chemoresistance in cancer, the specific Notch ligands and their molecular mechanisms leading to chemoresistance in breast cancer remain elusive. Using conditional knockout and reporter mouse models, we demonstrate that tumor cells expressing the Notch ligand Dll1 is important for tumor growth and metastasis and bear similarities to tumor-initiating cancer cells (TICs) in breast cancer. RNA-seq and ATAC-seq using reporter models and patient data demonstrated that NF-κB activation is downstream of Dll1 and is associated with a chemoresistant phenotype. Finally, pharmacological blocking of Dll1 or NF-κB pathway completely sensitizes Dll1 tumors to chemotherapy, highlighting therapeutic avenues for chemotherapy resistant breast cancer patients in the near future.

Combining single-cell lineage tracing with RNA sequencing has provided unprecedented opportunities to prospectively explore metastatic dynamics in vivo. In this issue of Cancer Cell, Simeonov et al. developed the macsGESTALT lineage recording system to reveal that hybrid EMT states and S100 expression are associated with elevated metastatic abilities in a pancreatic cancer model.

Colorectal and lung cancers account for one-third of all cancer-related deaths worldwide. Previous studies suggested that metadherin (MTDH) is involved in the development of colorectal and lung cancers. However, how MTDH regulates the pathogenesis of these cancers remains largely unknown. Using genetically modified mouse models of spontaneous colorectal and lung cancers, we found that MTDH promotes cancer progression by facilitating Wnt activation and by inducing cytotoxic T-cell exhaustion, respectively. Moreover, we developed locked nucleic acid-modified (LNA) MTDH antisense oligonucleotides (ASO) that effectively and specifically suppress MTDH expression and . Treatments with MTDH ASOs in mouse models significantly attenuated progression and metastasis of colorectal, lung, and breast cancers. Our study opens a new avenue for developing therapies against colorectal and lung cancers by targeting MTDH using LNA-modified ASO. SIGNIFICANCE: This study provides new insights into the mechanism of MTDH in promoting colorectal and lung cancers, as well as genetic and pharmacologic evidence supporting the development of MTDH-targeting therapeutics.

Estrogen receptor-negative (ER-negative) breast cancer is thought to be more malignant and devastating than ER-positive breast cancer. ER-negative breast cancer exhibits elevated NF-κB activity, but how this abnormally high NF-κB activity is maintained is poorly understood. The importance of linear ubiquitination, which is generated by the linear ubiquitin chain assembly complex (LUBAC), is increasingly appreciated in NF-κB signaling, which regulates cell activation and death. Here, we showed that epsin proteins, a family of ubiquitin-binding endocytic adaptors, interacted with LUBAC via its ubiquitin-interacting motif and bound LUBAC's bona fide substrate NEMO via its N-terminal homolog (ENTH) domain. Furthermore, epsins promoted NF-κB essential modulator (NEMO) linear ubiquitination and served as scaffolds for recruiting other components of the IκB kinase (IKK) complex, resulting in the heightened IKK activation and sustained NF-κB signaling essential for the development of ER-negative breast cancer. Heightened epsin levels in ER-negative human breast cancer are associated with poor relapse-free survival. We showed that transgenic and pharmacological approaches eliminating epsins potently impeded breast cancer development in both spontaneous and patient-derived xenograft breast cancer mouse models. Our findings established the pivotal role epsins played in promoting breast cancer. Thus, targeting epsins may represent a strategy to restrain NF-κB signaling and provide an important perspective into ER-negative breast cancer treatment.

Bone is one of the most preferred sites of metastatic spread from different cancer types, including breast cancer. However, different breast cancer subtypes exhibit distinct metastatic behavior in terms of kinetics and anatomic sites of relapse. Despite advances in the diagnosis, the identification of patients at high-risk of bone recurrence is still an unmet clinical need. We conducted a retrospective analysis, by gene expression and immunohistochemical assays, on 90 surgically resected breast cancer samples collected from patients who experienced no evidence of distant metastasis, bone or visceral metastasis in order to identify a primary tumor-derived marker of bone recurrence. We identified trefoil factor-1 (pS2 or TFF1) as strictly correlated to bone metastasis from ER+ breast cancer. In silico analysis was carried out to confirm this observation, linking gene expression data with clinical characteristics available from public clinical datasets. Then, we investigated TFF1 function in ER+ breast cancer tumorigenesis and bone metastasis through xenograft in vivo models of MCF 7 breast cancer with gain and loss of function of TFF1. As a response to microenvironmental features in primary tumors, TFF1 expression could modulate ER+ breast cancer growth, leading to a less proliferative phenotype. Our results showed it may not play a role in late stages of bone metastasis, however further studies are warranted to understand whether it could contribute in the early-stages of the metastatic cascade. In conclusion, TFF1 upregulation in primary ER+ breast cancer could be useful to identify patients at high-risk of bone metastasis. This could help clinicians in the identification of patients who likely can develop bone metastasis and who could benefit from personalized treatments and follow-up strategies to prevent metastatic disease.

Relative survival is the ratio of overall survival (OS) over survival of the general population, and widely used in epidemiological studies. But it is artificially higher than OS and thus inferior to OS for cancer prognostication of individual patients. Moreover, trend-changes and disparities in OS of breast cancer are unclear while the relative survival of breast cancer has been reported on a regular basis. Therefore, we estimated trends in age-standardized 5-year OS of invasive breast cancer, using data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) cancer registry program and piecewise-linear regression models. Among 188,052 women with breast cancer diagnosed during 2007-2010 (SEER-18, 155,515 [79.3%] survived by year 5), the 5-year OS significantly differed by age, histology, tumor grade, tumor stage, hormone receptors, race/ethnicity, insurance status, region, rural-urban continuum and selected county-attributes. Among 469,498 women with breast cancer diagnosed during 1975-2010 (SEER-9) in the U.S., we observed an upward trend in the age-standardized 5-year OS (stage- and race/ethnicity-adjusted annual percentage change = 0.97 [95% CI, 0.76-1.18]). The 36-year trends/slopes in age-standardized 5-year OS of breast cancer differed by histology, tumor grade, stage, race/ethnicity, region and socioeconomic attributes of the patient's residence-county, but not by those of rural-urban continuum. The 3-joinpoint model on the 36-year trend identified significant slope changes in 1983, 1987 and 2000, with the largest slope (2.5%/year) during 1983-1987. In conclusion, we here show trends in the age-standardized 5-year OS among U.S. women with breast cancer changed in diagnosis-years of 1983, 1987 and 2000, and differed by tumor characteristics and race/ethnicity. More efforts are needed to understand the trend changes and to address the OS disparities of breast cancers.


Transcription factor SNAI2 plays key roles during development and has also been known to promote metastasis by inducing invasive phenotype and tumor-initiating activity of cancer cells. However, the post-translational regulation of SNAI2 is less well studied. We performed a dual-luciferase-based, genome-wide E3 ligase siRNA library screen and identified ASB13 as an E3 ubiquitin ligase that targets SNAI2 for ubiquitination and degradation. ASB13 knockout in breast cancer cells promoted cell migration and decreased F-actin polymerization, while overexpression of ASB13 suppressed lung metastasis. Furthermore, ASB13 knockout decreased YAP expression, and such regulation is dependent on an increased protein level of SNAI2, which in turn represses YAP transcription. YAP suppresses tumor progression in breast cancer, as YAP knockout increases tumorsphere formation, anchorage-independent colony formation, cell migration in vitro, and lung metastasis in vivo. Clinical data analysis reveals that ASB13 expression is positively correlated with improved overall survival in breast cancer patients. These findings establish ASB13 as a suppressor of breast cancer metastasis by promoting degradation of SNAI2 and relieving its transcriptional repression of YAP.

The enzyme glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) is a major contributor to NADPH production and redox homeostasis and its expression is upregulated and correlated with negative patient outcomes in multiple human cancer types. Despite these associations, whether G6PD is essential for tumor initiation, growth, or metastasis remains unclear. Here, we employ modern genetic tools to evaluate the role of G6PD in lung, breast, and colon cancer driven by oncogenic K-Ras. Human HCT116 colorectal cancer cells lacking G6PD exhibited metabolic indicators of oxidative stress, but developed into subcutaneous xenografts with growth comparable with that of wild-type controls. In a genetically engineered mouse model of non-small cell lung cancer driven by K-Ras G12D and p53 deficiency, G6PD knockout did not block formation or proliferation of primary lung tumors. In MDA-MB-231-derived human triple-negative breast cancer cells implanted as orthotopic xenografts, loss of G6PD modestly decreased primary site growth without ablating spontaneous metastasis to the lung and moderately impaired the ability of breast cancer cells to colonize the lung when delivered via tail vein injection. Thus, in the studied K-Ras tumor models, G6PD was not strictly essential for tumorigenesis and at most modestly promoted disease progression. SIGNIFICANCE: K-Ras-driven tumors can grow and metastasize even in the absence of the oxidative pentose pathway, a main NADPH production route.

There is an unmet clinical need for improved tissue and liquid biopsy tools for cancer detection. We investigated the proteomic profile of extracellular vesicles and particles (EVPs) in 426 human samples from tissue explants (TEs), plasma, and other bodily fluids. Among traditional exosome markers, CD9, HSPA8, ALIX, and HSP90AB1 represent pan-EVP markers, while ACTB, MSN, and RAP1B are novel pan-EVP markers. To confirm that EVPs are ideal diagnostic tools, we analyzed proteomes of TE- (n = 151) and plasma-derived (n = 120) EVPs. Comparison of TE EVPs identified proteins (e.g., VCAN, TNC, and THBS2) that distinguish tumors from normal tissues with 90% sensitivity/94% specificity. Machine-learning classification of plasma-derived EVP cargo, including immunoglobulins, revealed 95% sensitivity/90% specificity in detecting cancer. Finally, we defined a panel of tumor-type-specific EVP proteins in TEs and plasma, which can classify tumors of unknown primary origin. Thus, EVP proteins can serve as reliable biomarkers for cancer detection and determining cancer type.

SNAI2/SLUG, a metastasis-promoting transcription factor, is a labile protein that is degraded through the ubiquitin proteasome degradation system. Here, we conducted comprehensive gain- and loss-of-function screens using a human DUB cDNA library of 65 genes and an siRNA library of 98 genes, and identified USP20 as a deubiquitinase (DUB) that regulates SNAI2 ubiquitination and stability. Further investigation of USP20 demonstrated its function in promoting migration, invasion, and metastasis of breast cancer. USP20 positively correlates with SNAI2 protein level in breast tumor samples, and higher USP20 expression is associated with poor prognosis in ER breast cancer patients.

Young women represent a target of E-cigarette (E-cig) companies, raising concern for potential connections with breast cancer (BC) that have not yet been elucidated. We hypothesized that E-cig promotes BC development and lung metastasis possibly through BC-monocyte/tumor-associated macrophage (TAM) crosstalk via CCL5 and V-CAM-1 axes. We demonstrated that E-cig promoted the infiltration of circulating monocytes in mammary fat pad (MFP) model. Furthermore, E-cig exposure significantly enhanced BC cell growth in MFP tumor and metastatic lung colonization; immunohistochemical stains illustrated the increase of TAMs infiltration, reduced BC cell apoptosis and increased proliferation index after E-cig exposure. In vitro studies show E-cig vapor condensate (EVC) treatment upregulated protein expressions of CCL5, V-CAM-1, and other pro-tumorigenic factors in BC cells. Mechanistically, co-culture system demonstrated both EVC and macrophages independently stimulated BC cell growth and the migration via CCL5/CCR1/CCR5 axis. During metastasis, E-Cig exposure stimulated BC cell survival via direct interaction with infiltrated macrophages, regulated by VCAM-1 and integrin αβ1. Our findings, for the first time, showed that E-cig promotes BC growth and metastasis. This study highlights the critical role of TAMs via CCL5 and VCAM-1 pathways in E-cig promoted BC tumor development.

Surface attachment, an early step in the colonization of multiple host environments, activates the virulence of the human pathogen P. aeruginosa. However, the downstream toxins that mediate surface-dependent P. aeruginosa virulence remain unclear, as do the signaling pathways that lead to their activation. Here, we demonstrate that alkyl-quinolone (AQ) secondary metabolites are rapidly induced upon surface association and act directly on host cells to cause cytotoxicity. Surface-induced AQ cytotoxicity is independent of other AQ functions like quorum sensing or PQS-specific activities like iron sequestration. We further show that packaging of AQs in outer-membrane vesicles (OMVs) increases their cytotoxicity to host cells but not their ability to stimulate downstream quorum sensing pathways in bacteria. OMVs lacking AQs are significantly less cytotoxic, suggesting these molecules play a role in OMV cytotoxicity, in addition to their previously characterized role in OMV biogenesis. AQ reporters also enabled us to dissect the signal transduction pathways downstream of the two known regulators of surface-dependent virulence, the quorum sensing receptor, LasR, and the putative mechanosensor, PilY1. Specifically, we show that PilY1 regulates surface-induced AQ production by repressing the AlgR-AlgZ two-component system. AlgR then induces RhlR, which can induce the AQ biosynthesis operon under specific conditions. These findings collectively suggest that the induction of AQs upon surface association is both necessary and sufficient to explain surface-induced P. aeruginosa virulence.

Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) encompasses dynamic changes in cellular organization from epithelial to mesenchymal phenotypes, which leads to functional changes in cell migration and invasion. EMT occurs in a diverse range of physiological and pathological conditions and is driven by a conserved set of inducing signals, transcriptional regulators and downstream effectors. With over 5,700 publications indexed by Web of Science in 2019 alone, research on EMT is expanding rapidly. This growing interest warrants the need for a consensus among researchers when referring to and undertaking research on EMT. This Consensus Statement, mediated by 'the EMT International Association' (TEMTIA), is the outcome of a 2-year-long discussion among EMT researchers and aims to both clarify the nomenclature and provide definitions and guidelines for EMT research in future publications. We trust that these guidelines will help to reduce misunderstanding and misinterpretation of research data generated in various experimental models and to promote cross-disciplinary collaboration to identify and address key open questions in this research field. While recognizing the importance of maintaining diversity in experimental approaches and conceptual frameworks, we emphasize that lasting contributions of EMT research to increasing our understanding of developmental processes and combatting cancer and other diseases depend on the adoption of a unified terminology to describe EMT.


Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and its reversed process, mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (MET), are fundamental processes in embryonic development and tissue repair but confer malignant properties to carcinoma cells, including invasive behavior, cancer stem cell activity, and greater resistance to chemotherapy and immunotherapy. Understanding the molecular and cellular basis of EMT provides fundamental insights into the etiology of cancer and may, in the long run, lead to new therapeutic strategies. Here, we discuss the regulatory mechanisms and pathological roles of epithelial-mesenchymal plasticity, with a focus on recent insights into the complexity and dynamics of this phenomenon in cancer.

Carcinoma cells often acquire mobility and invasiveness by undergoing epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, and yet most metastatic lesions remain epithelial in nature. Recently, in Nature, Padmanaban et al. (2019) demonstrated that the quintessential epithelial marker E-cadherin promotes metastasis of invasive ductal breast carcinoma by enhancing the survival of tumor cells.

The original version of this Article contained an error in the spelling of the author Daniel D. Liu, which was incorrectly given as Daniel Liu. This has now been corrected in both the PDF and HTML versions of the Article.


Loss of LKB1 is associated with increased metastasis and poor prognosis in lung cancer, but the development of targeted agents is in its infancy. Here we report that a glutaminolytic enzyme, glutamate dehydrogenase 1 (GDH1), upregulated upon detachment via pleomorphic adenoma gene 1 (PLAG1), provides anti-anoikis and pro-metastatic signals in LKB1-deficient lung cancer. Mechanistically, the GDH1 product α-KG activates CamKK2 by enhancing its substrate AMPK binding, which contributes to energy production that confers anoikis resistance. The effect of GDH1 on AMPK is evident in LKB1-deficient lung cancer, where AMPK activation predominantly depends on CamKK2. Targeting GDH1 with R162 attenuated tumor metastasis in patient-derived xenograft model and correlation studies in lung cancer patients further validated the clinical relevance of our finding. Our study provides insight into the molecular mechanism by which GDH1-mediated metabolic reprogramming of glutaminolysis mediates lung cancer metastasis and offers a therapeutic strategy for patients with LKB1-deficient lung cancer.


Secreted proteins play crucial roles in mediating tumor-stroma interactions during metastasis of cancer to different target organs. To comprehensively profile secreted proteins involved in lung metastasis, we applied quantitative mass spectrometry-based proteomics and identified 392 breast cancer-derived and 302 melanoma-derived proteins secreted from highly lung metastatic cells. The cancer-specific lung metastasis secretome signatures (LMSSs) displayed significant prognostic value in multiple cancer clinical data sets. Moreover, we observed a significant overlap of enriched pathways between the LMSSs of breast cancer and melanoma despite an overall small overlap of specific proteins, suggesting that common biological processes are executed by different proteins to enable the two cancer types to metastasize to the lung. Among the novel candidate lung metastasis proteins, Nidogen 1 (NID1) was confirmed to promote lung metastasis of breast cancer and melanoma, and its expression is correlated with poor clinical outcomes. In vitro functional analysis further revealed multiple prometastatic functions of NID1, including enhancing cancer cell migration and invasion, promoting adhesion to the endothelium and disrupting its integrity, and improving vascular tube formation capacity. As a secreted prometastatic protein, NID1 may be developed as a new biomarker for disease progression and therapeutic target in breast cancer and melanoma.

Tumor cells have to overcome challenges in the host tissue microenvironment to metastasize successfully to distant organs. In a recent Nature study, a genome-wide functional screen demonstrated that deficiency of the sphingosine-1-phoshate (S1P) transporter gene Spns2 in endothelium increased immune-mediated cell killing by T cells and natural killer (NK) cells, thereby suppressing metastatic colonization.

Tumour-initiating cells, or cancer stem cells (CSCs), possess stem-cell-like properties observed in normal adult tissue stem cells. Normal and cancerous stem cells may therefore share regulatory mechanisms for maintaining self-renewing capacity and resisting differentiation elicited by cell-intrinsic or microenvironmental cues. Here, we show that miR-199a promotes stem cell properties in mammary stem cells and breast CSCs by directly repressing nuclear receptor corepressor LCOR, which primes interferon (IFN) responses. Elevated miR-199a expression in stem-cell-enriched populations protects normal and malignant stem-like cells from differentiation and senescence induced by IFNs that are produced by epithelial and immune cells in the mammary gland. Importantly, the miR-199a-LCOR-IFN axis is activated in poorly differentiated ERbreast tumours, functionally promotes tumour initiation and metastasis, and is associated with poor clinical outcome. Our study therefore reveals a common mechanism shared by normal and malignant stem cells to protect them from suppressive immune cytokine signalling.

Bone metastasis, or the development of secondary tumors within the bone of cancer patients, is a debilitating and incurable disease. Despite its morbidity, the biology of bone metastasis represents one of the most complex and intriguing of all oncogenic processes. This complexity derives from the intricately organized bone microenvironment in which the various stages of hematopoiesis, osteogenesis, and osteolysis are jointly regulated but spatially restricted. Disseminated tumor cells (DTCs) from various common malignancies such as breast, prostate, lung, and kidney cancers or myeloma are uniquely primed to subvert these endogenous bone stromal elements to grow into pathological osteolytic or osteoblastic lesions. This colonization process can be separated into three key steps: seeding, dormancy, and outgrowth. Targeting the processes of dormancy and initial outgrowth offers the most therapeutic promise. Here, we discuss the concepts of the bone metastasis niche, from controlling tumor-cell survival to growth into clinically detectable disease.

The ability to prospectively identify metastasis-initiating cells is essential for developing new anti-metastasis therapeutics. In a recent issue of Nature, Pascual et al. (2017) demonstrate that the fatty acid receptor CD36 marks a subpopulation of cancer cells with unique metastasis-initiating potential, highlighting a key role of lipid metabolism in metastatic colonization.