Back to Journals » Breast Cancer: Targets and Therapy » Volume 4

Dormancy in breast cancer

Authors Banys, Hartkopf, Krawczyk, Kaiser, Meier-Stiegen, Fehm T, Neubauer

Received 7 June 2012

Accepted for publication 11 July 2012

Published 5 December 2012 Volume 2012:4 Pages 183—191


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Malgorzata Banys,1,2 Andreas D Hartkopf,1 Natalia Krawczyk,1 Tatjana Kaiser,1 Franziska Meier-Stiegen,1 Tanja Fehm,1 Hans Neubauer1

1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany; 2Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Marienkrankenhaus Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

Abstract: 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.

Keywords: tumor dormancy, disseminated tumor cell, circulating tumor cell, targeted therapy

Creative Commons License © 2012 The Author(s). This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution - Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed. For permission for commercial use of this work, please see paragraphs 4.2 and 5 of our Terms.