Hematogenous dissemination of single cancer cells is a common phenomenon in patients with solid tumors. These cells may experience different fates: most will die during the process; some will grow into metastasis and some will persist in secondary homing sites for many years in a state referred to as dormancy. The mechanisms of this state are still not clear; single cancer cells can survive either by completely withdrawing from the cell cycle or by continuing to proliferate at a slow rate that is counterbalanced by cell death. Another hypothesis assumes that at least some of dormant tumor cells feature stem cell-like characteristics that may contribute to their extremely long half-lives and enhance chemotherapy resistance. Breast cancer is particularly known for prolonged periods of clinical freedom of disease (sometimes up to 20–30 years), followed by a distant relapse. In this chapter, we explore the relationship between the clinical phenomenon of tumor dormancy and the disseminated tumor cells and discuss the potential implications for treatment.
Research Areas and Centers
- Research Area: Luebeck Integrated Oncology Network (LION)
- Centers: University Cancer Center Schleswig-Holstein (UCCSH)