Contrary to the long believed hypothesis, it is now evident that breast cancer cells can disseminate from the early phases of the oncogenesis; and that such early disseminated cells sometimes survive at the sites of dissemination and may outgrow after a long latency of years and decades. For cancer cells to leave their origin, they must at least transiently loosen their adhesion with adjacent epithelial cells and stroma, and become motile while avoiding anoikis. Such processes resemble epithelial-mesenchymal transdifferentiation (EMT), which normally takes place in situations such as embryogenesis and wound healing. Interestingly, the occurrence of an EMT-like process in breast cancer cells has been implicated in the generation of cancer stem-like cells, in which TGFβ1 signalling often plays core roles. Here, I discuss the current knowledge regarding cancerous EMT and its signalling pathways with the aim to consider the possible mechanisms of early dissemination, and also the generation of cancer stem-like cells in mammary tumour.

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