The “oligometastasis” hypothesis proposes that metastases exist as a spectrum and are not always disseminated. According to this theory, a subset of patients with metastatic disease could benefit from aggressive local therapies. However, the identification of patients most likely to exhibit an oligometastatic phenotype remains challenging. Recent literature focusing on basic and translational studies has identified novel epigenetic regulators of epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT) and the emergence of a spectrum of metastatic behavior. Herein, we review these scientific advances and suggest that the spectrum of metastatic virulence produced by these epigenetic mechanisms broadly contributes to the emergence of clinically evident “oligometastases.” Epigenetic regulation of EMT programs can result in a spectrum of cell trajectories (e.g., quasi-mesenchymal and highly mesenchymal states) with differential propensity to develop metastases. We propose that quasi-mesenchymal cell states may be associated with a polymetastatic phenotype, whereas highly mesenchymal cell states may be associated with a more oligometastatic phenotype. The mechanisms governing epigenetic regulation of EMT and its array of intermediate states are multifaceted and may contribute to the development of the metastatic spectrum observed clinically. Within this context, translational studies that support the role of EMT and its epigenetic regulation are discussed. Continued translation of these mechanistic discoveries into novel biomarkers may help optimally select patients most likely to exhibit an oligometastatic phenotype and benefit from aggressive local therapies, such as surgery, radiotherapy, and other ablative procedures.

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