Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a process through which epithelial cells lose their epithelial characteristics and cell–cell contact, thus increasing their invasive potential. In addition to its well-known roles in embryonic development, wound healing, and regeneration, EMT plays an important role in tumor progression and metastatic invasion. In breast cancer, EMT both increases the migratory capacity and invasive potential of tumor cells, and initiates protumorigenic alterations in the tumor microenvironment (TME). In particular, recent evidence has linked increased expression of EMT markers such as TWIST1 and MMPs in breast tumors with increased immune infiltration in the TME. These immune cells then provide cues that promote immune evasion by tumor cells, which is associated with enhanced tumor progression and metastasis. In the current review, we will summarize the current knowledge of the role of EMT in the biology of different subtypes of breast cancer. We will further explore the correlation between genetic switches leading to EMT and EMT-induced alterations within the TME that drive tumor growth and metastasis, as well as their possible effect on therapeutic response in breast cancer.
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