Unpacking the Complexity of Epithelial Plasticity: From Master Regulator Transcription Factors to Non-Coding RNAs

Charlene Waryah, Eric Alves, Roberta Mazzieri, Riccardo Dolcetti, Erik W. Thompson, Andrew Redfern, Pilar Blancafort

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cellular plasticity in cancer enables adaptation to selective pressures and stress imposed by the tumor microenvironment. This plasticity facilitates the remodeling of cancer cell phenotype and function (such as tumor stemness, metastasis, chemo/radio resistance), and the reprogramming of the surrounding tumor microenvironment to enable immune evasion. Epithelial plasticity is one form of cellular plasticity, which is intrinsically linked with epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT). Traditionally, EMT has been regarded as a binary state. Yet, increasing evidence suggests that EMT involves a spectrum of quasi-epithelial and quasi-mesenchymal phenotypes governed by complex interactions between cellular metabolism, transcriptome regulation, and epigenetic mechanisms. Herein, we review the complex cross-talk between the different layers of epithelial plasticity in cancer, encompassing the core layer of transcription factors, their interacting epigenetic modifiers and non-coding RNAs, and the manipulation of cancer immunogenicity in transitioning between epithelial and mesenchymal states. In examining these factors, we provide insights into promising therapeutic avenues and potential anti-cancer targets.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3152
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

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