Dormancy in cancer

Cancer Sci. 2019 Feb;110(2):474-480. doi: 10.1111/cas.13917. Epub 2019 Jan 11.


The idea of tumor dormancy originated from clinical findings that recurrence of cancer occurs several years or even several decades after surgical resection of the primary tumor. Tumor mass dormancy was proposed as a model, where there is equal balance between increases in the number of cancer cells by proliferation and decreases as a result of cell death. Tumor mass dormancy includes angiogenic dormancy and immune-mediated dormancy. Another emerging type of tumor dormancy is cellular dormancy in which cancer cells are in a quiescent state. Cellular dormancy is induced by cues such as the extracellular matrix environment, metastatic niches, a hypoxic microenvironment, and endoplasmic reticulum stress. Even the oncogenic pathways, on which active cancer cells depend for survival and growth, are suppressed in the dormant state. As tumor dormancy is one of the mechanisms of resistance against various cancer therapies, targeting dormant cancer cells should be considered for future treatment strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Death / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / physiology