Authors Bakhshandeh , S. ; Werner, C. ; Fratzl, P. ; Cipitria, A.
Title Microenvironment-mediated cancer dormancy: Insights from metastability theory
Date 04.01.2022
Number 60001
Abstract Dormancy is an evolutionarily conserved protective mechanism widely observed in nature. A pathological example is found during cancer metastasis, where cancer cells disseminate from the primary tumor, home to secondary organs, and enter a growth-arrested state, which could last for decades. Recent studies have pointed toward the microenvironment being heavily involved in inducing, preserving, or ceasing this dormant state, with a strong focus on identifying specific molecular mechanisms and signaling pathways. Increasing evidence now suggests the existence of an interplay between intracellular as well as extracellular biochemical and mechanical cues in guiding such processes. Despite the inherent complexities associated with dormancy, proliferation, and growth of cancer cells and tumor tissues, viewing these phenomena from a physical perspective allows for a more global description, independent from many details of the systems. Building on the analogies between tissues and fluids and thermodynamic phase separation concepts, we classify a number of proposed mechanisms in terms of a thermodynamic metastability of the tumor with respect to growth. This can be governed by interaction with the microenvironment in the form of adherence (wetting) to a substrate or by mechanical confinement of the surrounding extracellular matrix. By drawing parallels with clinical and experimental data, we advance the notion that the local energy minima, or metastable states, emerging in the tissue droplet growth kinetics can be associated with a dormant state. Despite its simplicity, the provided framework captures several aspects associated with cancer dormancy and tumor growth.
Publisher Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America : PNAS
Citation Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America : PNAS 119 (2022) e2111046118

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