The failed outcome of autologous bone marrow transplantation for breast cancer opens the field for investigations. This is particularly important because the bone marrow could be a major source of cancer cells during tertiary metastasis. This review discusses subsets of breast cancer cells, including those that enter the bone marrow at an early period of disease development, perhaps prior to clinical detection. This population of cells evades chemotherapeutic damage even at high doses. An understanding of this population might be crucial for the success of bone marrow transplants for metastatic breast cancer and for the eradication of cancer cells in bone marrow. In vivo and in vitro studies have demonstrated gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) between bone marrow stroma and breast cancer cells. This review discusses GJIC in cancer metastasis, facilitating roles of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). In addition, the review addresses potential roles for miRNAs, including those already linked to cancer biology. The literature on MSCs is growing and their links to metastasis are beginning to be significant leads for the development of new drug targets for breast cancer. In summary, this review discusses interactions among GJIC, miRNAs and MSCs as future consideration for the development of cancer therapies.
Keywords: Breast cancer, bone marrow, gap junction, mesenchymal stem cells, microrna, stromal cells, metastasis, cytokines