Great progress has been made in cancer therapeutics. However, metastasis remains the predominant cause of death from cancer. Importantly, metastasis can manifest many years after initial treatment of the primary cancer. This is because cancer cells can remain dormant before forming symptomatic metastasis. An important question is whether metastasis research should focus on the early treatment of metastases, before they are clinically evident ("overt"), or on developing treatments to stop overt metastasis (stage IV cancer). In this commentary we want to clarify why it is important that all avenues of treatment for stage IV patients are developed. Indeed, future treatments are expected to go beyond the mere shrinkage of overt metastases and will include strategies that prevent disseminated tumor cells from emerging from dormancy.
Keywords: Cancer dormancy; Liquid biopsy; Metastasis; Minimal residual disease; Stage IV cancer.