Scientists using a three-dimensional cell culture
system have identified a mechanism by which dormant, metastatic tumor cells can begin growing again after long periods of inactivity.
The new findings indicate that the switch from dormancy to proliferative, metastatic growth may be regulated, in part, through signaling
from the surrounding microenvironment, which leads to changes in the skeletal architecture of dormant tumor cells. Targeting this
mechanism may also provide strategies for inhibiting the switch from dormancy to proliferation. The results of this study by National
Cancer Institute (
The recurrence of breast cancer often follows a long latent period in which there are no
signs of cancer, and metastases may not become clinically apparent until many years after removal of the primary tumor and follow-up
therapy. According to
Although many of these disseminated tumor cells may not survive for extended periods of time, a subset of them may represent dormant but viable cells that could begin to proliferate years later. These dormant cells can be resistant to conventional therapies, such as chemotherapy, that target actively dividing cells; such cells could account for disease recurrence after apparently successful treatment of primary tumors.