A tEMTing target? Clinical and experimental evidence for epithelial-mesenchymal transition in the progression of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (a scoping systematic review)

Publication Name

Discover Oncology


Cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) is a disease with globally rising incidence and poor prognosis for patients with advanced or metastatic disease. Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a driver of metastasis in many carcinomas, and cSCC is no exception. We aimed to provide a systematic overview of the clinical and experimental evidence for EMT in cSCC, with critical appraisal of type and quality of the methodology used. We then used this information as rationale for potential drug targets against advanced and metastatic cSCC. All primary literature encompassing clinical and cell-based or xenograft experimental studies reporting on the role of EMT markers or related signalling pathways in the progression of cSCC were considered. A screen of 3443 search results yielded 86 eligible studies comprising 44 experimental studies, 22 clinical studies, and 20 studies integrating both. From the clinical studies a timeline illustrating the alteration of EMT markers and related signalling was evident based on clinical progression of the disease. The experimental studies reveal connections of EMT with a multitude of factors such as genetic disorders, cancer-associated fibroblasts, and matrix remodelling via matrix metalloproteinases and urokinase plasminogen activator. Additionally, EMT was found to be closely tied to environmental factors as well as to stemness in cSCC via NFκB and β-catenin. We conclude that the canonical EGFR, canonical TGF-βR, PI3K/AKT and NFκB signalling are the four signalling pillars that induce EMT in cSCC and could be valuable therapeutic targets. Despite the complexity, EMT markers and pathways are desirable biomarkers and drug targets for the treatment of advanced or metastatic cSCC. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

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National Health and Medical Research Council



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