Tumor Dormancy and Interplay with Hypoxic Tumor Microenvironment

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Sep 3;20(17):4305. doi: 10.3390/ijms20174305.


The tumor microenvironment is a key factor in disease progression, local resistance, immune-escaping, and metastasis. The rapid proliferation of tumor cells and the aberrant structure of the blood vessels within tumors result in a marked heterogeneity in the perfusion of the tumor tissue with regions of hypoxia. Although most of the tumor cells die in these hypoxic conditions, a part of them can adapt and survive for many days or months in a dormant state. Dormant tumor cells are characterized by cell cycle arrest in G0/G1 phase as well as a low metabolism, and are refractive to common chemotherapy, giving rise to metastasis. Despite these features, the cells retain their ability to proliferate when conditions improve. An understanding of the regulatory machinery of tumor dormancy is essential for identifying early cancer biomarkers and could provide a rationale for the development of novel agents to target dormant tumor cell populations. In this review, we examine the current knowledge of the mechanisms allowing tumor dormancy and discuss the crucial role of the hypoxic microenvironment in this process.

Keywords: dormancy; hypoxia; tumor microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / genetics
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics
  • Tumor Microenvironment / physiology*