J Cancer 2021; 12(4):954-964. doi:10.7150/jca.50137 This issue
Division of Breast Surgery and Department of Surgical Oncology, Department of Molecular & Cellular Biology, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, Buffalo, New York, 14263, USA.
Brain metastases represent a substantial amount of morbidity and mortality in breast cancer (BC). Metastatic breast tumor cells committed to brain metastases are unique because they escape immune surveillance, can penetrate the blood-brain barrier, and also adapt to the brain tissue microenvironment (TME) for colonization and outgrowth. In addition, dynamic intracellular interactions between metastatic cancer cells and neighboring astrocytes in the brain are thought to play essential roles in brain tumor progression. A better understanding of the above mechanisms will lead to developing more effective therapies for brain metastases. Growing literature suggests autophagy, a conserved lysosomal degradation pathway involved in cellular homeostasis under stressful conditions, plays essential roles in breast tumor metastatic transformation and brain metastases. Cancer cells must adapt under various microenvironmental stresses, such as hypoxia, and nutrient (glucose) deprivation, in order to survive and progress. Clinical studies reveal that tumoral expression of autophagy-related proteins is higher in brain metastasis compared to primary breast tumors. In this review, we outline the molecular mechanisms underlying autophagy-mediated BC cell survival and metastasis to the brain.
Keywords: breast cancer, brain metastases, astrocytes, autophagy, cell survival