Heterogeneity and vascular permeability of breast cancer brain metastases

Maria V. Babak, Michael R. Zalutsky, Irina V. Balyasnikova*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of systemic breast cancer have led to a prolongation in patient survival. Unfortunately, these advances are also associated with an increased incidence of brain metastases (BM), with the result that many patients succumb due to BM treatment failure. Intracranial delivery of many chemotherapeutic agents and other therapeutics is hindered by the presence of an impermeable blood-brain barrier (BBB) designed to protect the brain from harmful substances. The formation of BM compromises the integrity of the BBB, resulting in a highly heterogeneous blood-tumor barrier (BTB) with varying degrees of vascular permeability. Here, we discuss how blood vessels play an important role in the formation of brain micrometastases as well as in the transformation from poorly permeable BM to highly permeable BM. We then review the role of BTB vascular permeability in the diagnostics and the choice of treatment regimens for breast cancer brain metastases (BCBM) and discuss whether the vasculature of primary breast cancers can serve as a biomarker for BM. Specifically, we examine the association between the vascular permeability of BCBM and their accumulation of large molecules such as antibodies, which remains largely unexplored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)174-181
Number of pages8
JournalCancer Letters
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Blood-brain barrier
  • Brain metastasis
  • Breast cancer
  • Therapeutics
  • Vascular permeability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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