Dormancy and surgery-driven escape from dormancy help explain some clinical features of breast cancer

APMIS. Jul-Aug 2008;116(7-8):730-41. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0463.2008.00990.x.


To explain bimodal relapse patterns observed in breast cancer data, we have proposed that metastatic breast cancer growth commonly includes periods of temporary dormancy at both the single cell phase and the avascular micrometastasis phase. The half-lives of these states are 1 and 2 years respectively. We also suggested that surgery to remove the primary tumor often terminates dormancy resulting in accelerated relapses. These iatrogenic events are very common in that over half of all metastatic relapses progress in that manner. Assuming this is true, there should be ample and clear evidence in clinical data. We review here the breast cancer paradigm from early detection, through treatment and follow-up, and consider how dormancy and surgery-driven escape from dormancy would be observed. We examine mammography data, effectiveness of adjuvant chemotherapy, heterogeneity and aggressiveness, timing of surgery within the menstrual cycle and racial differences in outcome. Dormancy can be identified in these diverse data but most conspicuous is the sudden escape from dormancy following primary surgery. These quantitative findings provide linkage between experimental studies of tumor dormancy and clinical efforts to improve patient outcome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans
  • Breast Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / surgery
  • Chemotherapy, Adjuvant
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphatic Metastasis
  • Mammography
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • Recurrence
  • Time Factors
  • United States / epidemiology