Tumor dormancy and cancer stem cells: implications for the biology and treatment of breast cancer metastasis

Breast Dis. 2006;26:87-98. doi: 10.3233/bd-2007-26108.


Breast cancer remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in women, mainly due to the propensity of primary breast tumors to metastasize to regional and distant sites. Metastatic spread after the removal of a primary tumor can be difficult to identify, creating uncertainty in patients with regards to possible cancer recurrence. This is a particular problem in breast cancer, exemplified by the fact that recurrence can take place after decades of apparent disease-free survival. The mechanisms underlying tumor dormancy in breast cancer remain poorly understood, and this presents significant challenges to both experimental investigation and clinical management of breast cancer. This review will discuss what is currently known about the metastatic process and tumor dormancy, consider the growing evidence that cancer stem cells may contribute to tumor progression and dormancy, and speculate about the clinical importance and implications of this research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / physiopathology
  • Neoplasm, Residual / physiopathology*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells* / pathology