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APMIS. 2008 Jul-Aug;116(7-8):586-601. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0463.2008.01213.x.

The role of metastasis suppressor genes in metastatic dormancy.

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Women's Cancers Section, Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Metastasis suppressor genes (MSGs) are defined by their ability to inhibit overt metastasis in a secondary organ without affecting tumor growth at the primary site. Over 20 MSGs have been confirmed in vivo. This class of genes is only unified by their capacity to suppress metastasis, as they encode for proteins with a wide range of biochemical activities that are components of a variety of signaling pathways. In addition, metastasis suppressors impinge upon different stages of the metastatic cascade to manifest their suppressive effects. The MSGs KISS1, KAI1, MKK4/7 and Nm23-H1 promote tumor dormancy at the metastatic site, since tumor cells with induced expression of these MSGs disseminate, but do not form overt metastases in the secondary organ throughout the duration of a metastasis assay. Evidence suggests that KISS1 triggers dormancy in solitary, metastatic tumor cells by causing growth arrest of solitary cells at the secondary site. KAI1 induces growth arrest prior to extravasation by binding a vascular endothelial cell surface marker. MKK4, MKK7 and Nm23-H1 appear to promote dormancy of micrometastatic colonies, after disseminated tumor cells have undergone several rounds of proliferation. Other MSGs may also function in tumor dormancy, but so far their role has not been fully elucidated. Therapeutic approaches that either mimic the effects of MSGs or re-establish MSG expression in metastatic lesions may hold promise for the establishment or maintenance of dormancy.

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