In vitro Models of Breast Cancer Metastatic DormancyMore about Open Access at the Crick
Delayed relapses at distant sites are a common clinical observation for certain types of cancers after removal of primary tumor, such as breast and prostate cancer. This evidence has been explained by postulating a long period during which disseminated cancer cells (DCCs) survive in a foreign environment without developing into overt metastasis. Because of the asymptomatic nature of this phenomenon, isolation, and analysis of disseminated dormant cancer cells from clinically disease-free patients is ethically and technically highly problematic and currently these data are largely limited to the bone marrow. That said, detecting, profiling and treating indolent metastatic lesions before the onset of relapse is the imperative. To overcome this major limitation many laboratories developed in vitro models of the metastatic niche for different organs and different types of cancers. In this review we focus specifically on in vitro models designed to study metastatic dormancy of breast cancer cells (BCCs). We provide an overview of the BCCs employed in the different organotypic systems and address the components of the metastatic microenvironment that have been shown to impact on the dormant phenotype: tissue architecture, stromal cells, biochemical environment, oxygen levels, cell density. A brief description of the organ-specific in vitro models for bone, liver, and lung is provided. Finally, we discuss the strategies employed so far for the validation of the different systems.