Dormancy in breast cancer

Malgorzata Banys, Andreas D. Hartkopf, Natalia Krawczyk, Tatjana Kaiser, Franziska Meier-Stiegen, Tanja Fehm, Hans Neubauer

28 Citations (Scopus)


Tumor dormancy describes a prolonged quiescent state in which tumor cells are present, but disease progression is not yet clinically apparent. Breast cancer is especially known for long asymptomatic periods, up to 25 years, with no evidence of the disease, followed by a relapse. Factors that determine the cell's decision to enter a dormant state and that control its duration remain unclear. In recent years, considerable progress has been made in understanding how tumor cells circulating in the blood interact and extravasate into secondary sites and which factors might determine whether these cells survive, remain dormant, or become macrometastases. The mechanisms of tumor cell dormancy are still not clear. Two different hypotheses are currently discussed: tumor cells persist either by completely withdrawing from the cell cycle or by continuing to proliferate at a slow rate that is counterbalanced by cell death. Because dormant disseminated tumor cells may be the founders of metastasis, one hypothesis is that dormant tumor cells, or at least a fraction of them, share stem cell-like characteristics that may be responsible for their long half-lives and their suggested resistance to standard chemotherapy. Therefore, knowledge of the biology of tumor cell dormancy may be the basis from which to develop innovative targeted therapies to control or eliminate this tumor cell fraction. In this review, we discuss biological mechanisms and clinical implications of tumor dormancy in breast cancer patients.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBreast Cancer: Targets and Therapy
Pages (from-to)183-191
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 04.12.2012


Dive into the research topics of 'Dormancy in breast cancer'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this