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bm-basic: tumor-dormancy-and-metastasis

Tumor Dormancy, Relapse and Metastasis

Cancer diagnoses are often named on the basis of their origin. In fact, most cancers are chronic diseases spread throughout the body. Even when primary tumors are surgically removed and a patient is in remission, a single residual, dormant disseminated tumor cell (DTC’s) can cause relapse and metastatic disease.2-4

  • DTCs are cancer cells disseminated from a primary tumor that have lodged in distant organs, before evidence of cancer recurrence or metastasis has becomes detectable.2 DTCs live in the bones, lungs and other tissues and, upon reawakening, can lead to metastasis, even if the primary tumor was successfully removed.2,5
  • Dormancy is a state in which cancer cells stop dividing but survive in a quiescent state, and then “awaken” in response to specific cues in the surrounding tissue.2 Dormant DTCs are metabolically active and establish reciprocal interactions with surrounding tissue.2
  • DTC presence is highly predictive of increased risk of metastasis.5 When DTCs are identified in cancers including breast, lung, prostate, colorectal, gastric and esophageal cancer, their presence is correlated to reduced metastasis-free survival.5-11
  • DTCs can live for years in an asymptomatic state without detection.5 While most current therapeutics target active and proliferative tumors, DTCs are resistant to and not specifically targeted by current therapeutic options.2,3

Dormancy Prevalence in Patients

Today, most cancer therapies target pathways defined in primary tumors and do so with variable, but limited long-term success. The vast majority of patients who ultimately succumb to their cancer do so because of metastasis.

Metastatic disease often emerges years or decades following successful surgery or adjuvant treatment. The ability to identify and eliminate DTCs represents a significant opportunity to prevent cancer relapse and metastasis.

HiberCell is focused on better defining the prevalence of dormant DTCs across several tumor types via a relationship-based collaborative effort that will focus on detecting, isolating, and annotating these cells from patient material.

bm-basic: the-biology-of-dormancy

Therapeutic Strategies

Research to date indicates that DTCs are identifiable through a shared origin and could therefore be detectable via biopsy.12-18

We are leveraging the HiberCell platform to detect novel biomarkers of genetic alterations in dormant DTCs obtained from cancer patients. Through the use of these biomarkers and dormant cell genetics, we are defining the distinguishing characteristics of disseminated DTCs.

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Programs