Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are frequently associated with epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT).The objective of this study was to detect EMT phenotype through Vimentin (VIM) and Slug expression in cytokeratin (CK)-negative CTCs in non-metastatic breast cancer patients and to determine the importance of EGFR in the EMT phenomenon. In CK-negative CTCs samples, both VIM and Slug markers were co-expressed in the most of patients. Among patients EGFR+, half of them were positive for these EMT markers. Furthermore, after a systemic treatment 68% of patients switched from CK- to CK+ CTCs. In our experimental model we found that activation of EGFR signaling by its ligand on MCF-7 cells is sufficient to increase EMT phenotypes, to inhibit apoptotic events and to induce the loss of CK expression. The simultaneous detection of both EGFR and EMT markers in CTCs may improve prognostic or predictive information in patients with operable breast cancer.
- Breast cancer
- Circulating tumor cells
- Epithelial-mesenchymal transition