R.E. Mansel et al. (eds.), Metastasis ofBreast Cancer, 111-136. © 2007 Springer.

every step of the process of tumor transformation and progression, the profile of the surface cell adhesion molecules changes and ultimately the tumor cell acquires a profile that is distinct from the primary tumor. In this review we summarize the involvement of various cell adhesion molecules in breast cancer and discuss their potential applications in the management of breast cancer.

The most apparent morphological change that occurs during the transition from benign tumor to a malignant and metastatic one is that tumor cells change from a highly differentiated, epithelial morphology to a migratory and invasive mesenchymal phenotype (4). During this process of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), cells progressively redistribute or downregulate their apical and basolateral epithelial-specific tight and adherens junction proteins (including E-cadherin and cytokeratins) and re-express mesenchymal molecules (including vimentin and N-cadherin) (4-6). These changes lead to the loss of cell-cell contacts and the gain of cell motility; changes that are necessary for invasion.

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