Mechanisms of Metastatic Tumor Dormancy and Implications for Cancer Therapy
Neophytou, Christiana M.
Kyriakou, Theodora Christina
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Metastasis, a multistep process during which tumor cells disseminate to secondary organs, represents the main cause of death for cancer patients. Metastatic dormancy is a late stage during cancer progression, following extravasation of cells at a secondary site, where the metastatic cells stop proliferating but survive in a quiescent state. When the microenvironmental conditions are favorable, they re-initiate proliferation and colonize, sometimes years after treatment of the primary tumor. This phenomenon represents a major clinical obstacle in cancer patient care. In this review, we describe the current knowledge regarding the genetic or epigenetic mechanisms that are activated by cancer cells that either sustain tumor dormancy or promote escape from this inactive state. In addition, we focus on the role of the microenvironment with emphasis on the effects of extracellular matrix proteins and in factors implicated in regulating dormancy during colonization to the lungs, brain, and bone. Finally, we describe the opportunities and efforts being made for the development of novel therapeutic strategies to combat metastatic cancer, by targeting the dormancy stage.