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Tumour microenvironment: a non-negligible driver for epithelial−mesenchymal transition in colorectal cancer

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 November 2021

Lei Han
Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan430071, China Hubei Key Laboratory of Tumour Biological Behaviours, Wuhan430071, China Hubei Cancer Clinical Study Centre, Wuhan430071, China The Clinical Medical Research Centre of Peritoneal Cancer of Wuhan, Wuhan430071, China
Shuyi Wang
Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan430071, China Hubei Key Laboratory of Tumour Biological Behaviours, Wuhan430071, China Hubei Cancer Clinical Study Centre, Wuhan430071, China The Clinical Medical Research Centre of Peritoneal Cancer of Wuhan, Wuhan430071, China
Chen Wei
Department of Internal Medicine, Affiliated Tumour Hospital of Zhengzhou University, Henan Cancer Hospital, Zhengzhou450008, China
Yan Fang
Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan430071, China Hubei Key Laboratory of Tumour Biological Behaviours, Wuhan430071, China Hubei Cancer Clinical Study Centre, Wuhan430071, China The Clinical Medical Research Centre of Peritoneal Cancer of Wuhan, Wuhan430071, China
Sihao Huang
Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan430071, China Hubei Key Laboratory of Tumour Biological Behaviours, Wuhan430071, China Hubei Cancer Clinical Study Centre, Wuhan430071, China The Clinical Medical Research Centre of Peritoneal Cancer of Wuhan, Wuhan430071, China
Tailang Yin*
Reproductive Medical Center, Renmin Hospital of Wuhan University & Hubei Clinic Research Center for Assisted Reproductive Technology and Embryonic Development, Wuhan430060, China
Bin Xiong*
Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan430071, China Hubei Key Laboratory of Tumour Biological Behaviours, Wuhan430071, China Hubei Cancer Clinical Study Centre, Wuhan430071, China The Clinical Medical Research Centre of Peritoneal Cancer of Wuhan, Wuhan430071, China
Chaogang Yang*
Department of Gastrointestinal Surgery, Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, Wuhan430071, China Hubei Key Laboratory of Tumour Biological Behaviours, Wuhan430071, China Hubei Cancer Clinical Study Centre, Wuhan430071, China The Clinical Medical Research Centre of Peritoneal Cancer of Wuhan, Wuhan430071, China
Authors for correspondence: Chaogang Yang, Bin Xiong, Tailang Yin, E-mail:,,
Authors for correspondence: Chaogang Yang, Bin Xiong, Tailang Yin, E-mail:,,
Authors for correspondence: Chaogang Yang, Bin Xiong, Tailang Yin, E-mail:,,


Cancer remains the leading cause of death worldwide, and metastasis is still the major cause of treatment failure for cancer patients. Epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) has been shown to play a critical role in the metastasis cascade of epithelium-derived carcinoma. Tumour microenvironment (TME) refers to the local tissue environment in which tumour cells produce and live, including not only tumour cells themselves, but also fibroblasts, immune and inflammatory cells, glial cells and other cells around them, as well as intercellular stroma, micro vessels and infiltrated biomolecules from the nearby areas, which has been proved to widely participate in the occurrence and progress of cancer. Emerging and accumulating studies indicate that, on one hand, mesenchymal cells in TME can establish ‘crosstalk’ with tumour cells to regulate their EMT programme; on the other, EMT-tumour cells can create a favourable environment for their own growth via educating stromal cells. Recently, our group has conducted a series of studies on the interaction between tumour-associated macrophages (TAMs) and colorectal cancer (CRC) cells in TME, confirming that the interaction between TAMs and CRC cells mediated by cytokines or exosomes can jointly promote the metastasis of CRC by regulating the EMT process of tumour cells and the M2-type polarisation process of TAMs. Herein, we present an overview to describe the current knowledge about EMT in cancer, summarise the important role of TME in EMT, and provide an update on the mechanisms of TME-induced EMT in CRC, aiming to provide new ideas for understanding and resisting tumour metastasis.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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These authors contributed equally to this work.


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