Decoding leader cells in collective cancer invasion

Samuel A. Vilchez Mercedes, Federico Bocci, Herbert Levine, José N. Onuchic, Mohit Kumar Jolly, Pak Kin Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Collective cancer invasion with leader–follower organization is increasingly recognized as a predominant mechanism in the metastatic cascade. Leader cells support cancer invasion by creating invasion tracks, sensing environmental cues and coordinating with follower cells biochemically and biomechanically. With the latest developments in experimental and computational models and analysis techniques, the range of specific traits and features of leader cells reported in the literature is rapidly expanding. Yet, despite their importance, there is no consensus on how leader cells arise or their essential characteristics. In this Perspective, we propose a framework for defining the essential aspects of leader cells and provide a unifying perspective on the varying cellular and molecular programmes that are adopted by each leader cell subtype to accomplish their functions. This Perspective can lead to more effective strategies to interdict a major contributor to metastatic capability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)592-604
Number of pages13
JournalNature Reviews Cancer
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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