Effects of cancer stem cells in triple-negative breast cancer and brain metastasis: Challenges and solutions

Kha Liang Lee, Gao Chen, Tai Yuan Chen, YungChe Kuo, Yu Kai Su

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


A higher propensity of developing brain metastasis exists in triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Upon comparing the metastatic patterns of all breast cancer subtypes, patients with TNBC exhibited increased risks of the brain being the initial metastatic site, early brain metastasis development, and shortest brain metastasis-related survival. Notably, the development of brain metastasis differs from that at other sites owing to the brain-unique microvasculature (blood brain barrier (BBB)) and intracerebral microenvironment. Studies of brain metastases from TNBC have revealed the poorest treatment response, mostly because of the relatively backward strategies to target vast disease heterogeneity and poor brain efficacy. Moreover, TNBC is highly associated with the existence of cancer stem cells (CSCs), which contribute to circulating cancer cell survival before BBB extravasation, evasion from immune surveillance, and plasticity in adaptation to the brain-specific microenvironment. We summarized recent literature regarding molecules and pathways and reviewed the effects of CSC biology during the formation of brain metastasis in TNBC. Along with the concept of individualized cancer therapy, certain strategies, namely the patient-derived xenograft model to overcome the lack of treatment-relevant TNBC classification and techniques in BBB disruption to enhance brain efficacy has been proposed in the hope of achieving treatment success.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2122
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Brain metastasis
  • Cancer stem cells
  • Triple-negative breast cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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