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J Vis Exp. 2011 Aug 11;(54). pii: 2914. doi: 10.3791/2914.

An in vitro system to study tumor dormancy and the switch to metastatic growth.

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Haifa. dalitbrk@gmail.com

Abstract

Recurrence of breast cancer often follows a long latent period in which there are no signs of cancer, and metastases may not become clinically apparent until many years after removal of the primary tumor and adjuvant therapy. A likely explanation of this phenomenon is that tumor cells have seeded metastatic sites, are resistant to conventional therapies, and remain dormant for long periods of time. The existence of dormant cancer cells at secondary sites has been described previously as quiescent solitary cells that neither proliferate nor undergo apoptosis. Moreover, these solitary cells has been shown to disseminate from the primary tumor at an early stage of disease progression and reside growth-arrested in the patients' bone marrow, blood and lymph nodes. Therefore, understanding mechanisms that regulate dormancy or the switch to a proliferative state is critical for discovering novel targets and interventions to prevent disease recurrence. However, unraveling the mechanisms regulating the switch from tumor dormancy to metastatic growth has been hampered by the lack of available model systems. In vivo and ex vivo model systems to study metastatic progression of tumor cells have been described previously. However these model systems have not provided in real time and in a high throughput manner mechanistic insights into what triggers the emergence of solitary dormant tumor cells to proliferate as metastatic disease. We have recently developed a 3D in vitro system to model the in vivo growth characteristics of cells that exhibit either dormant (D2.OR, MCF7, K7M2-AS.46) or proliferative (D2A1, MDA-MB-231, K7M2) metastatic behavior in vivo. We demonstrated that tumor cells that exhibit dormancy in vivo at a metastatic site remain quiescent when cultured in a 3-dimension (3D) basement membrane extract (BME), whereas cells highly metastatic in vivo readily proliferate in 3D culture after variable, but relatively short periods of quiescence. Importantly by utilizing the 3D in vitro model system we demonstrated for the first time that the ECM composition plays an important role in regulating whether dormant tumor cells will switch to a proliferative state and have confirmed this in in vivo studies. Hence, the model system described in this report provides an in vitro method to model tumor dormancy and study the transition to proliferative growth induced by the microenvironment.

PMID:
21860375
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3211127
Free PMC Article
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