Research ArticleCancer

Dormant breast cancer micrometastases reside in specific bone marrow niches that regulate their transit to and from bone

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Science Translational Medicine  25 May 2016:
Vol. 8, Issue 340, pp. 340ra73
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aad4059

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Taking away cancer’s hideouts

Breast cancer is notorious for its ability to relapse after many years, long after a patient had completed treatment. Price et al. demonstrate that the culprits responsible for such late metastasis may be dormant cancer cells hiding in perivascular niches. The authors showed that proteins called E-selectin and CXCR4 exert different forces on these cancer cells, with CXCR4 anchoring breast cancer cells to their niches and E-selectin allowing entry of cancer cells into the bone marrow. These findings suggest that combining a CXCR4 inhibitor to force the cells out of their niches and an E-selectin inhibitor to prevent metastasis to the bone marrow could help trap the cells in the vasculature, where they could be killed with chemotherapy.