Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) programs contribute to the acquisition of invasive properties that are essential for metastasis. It is well established that EMT programs alter cell state and promote invasive behavior. This review discusses how rather than following one specific program, EMT states are diverse in their regulation and invasive properties. Analysis across a spectrum of models using a combination of approaches has revealed how unique features of distinct EMT programs dictate whether tumor cells invade as single cells or collectively as cohesive groups of cells. It has also been shown that the mode of collective invasion is determined by the nature of the EMT, with cells in a trailblazer-type EMT state being capable of initiating collective invasion, whereas cells that have undergone an opportunist-type EMT are dependent on extrinsic factors to invade. In addition to altering cell intrinsic properties, EMT programs can influence invasion through non-cell autonomous mechanisms. Analysis of tumor subpopulations has demonstrated how EMT-induced cells can drive the invasion of sibling epithelial populations through paracrine signaling and remodeling of the microenvironment. Importantly, the variation in invasive properties controlled by EMT programs influences the kinetics and location of metastasis.
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