Research ArticleCANCER

Tumor cell–organized fibronectin maintenance of a dormant breast cancer population

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Science Advances  11 Mar 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 11, eaaz4157
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz4157


Tumors can undergo long periods of dormancy, with cancer cells entering a largely quiescent, nonproliferative state before reactivation and outgrowth. To understand the role of the extracellular matrix (ECM) in regulating tumor dormancy, we created an in vitro cell culture system with carefully controlled ECM substrates to observe entrance into and exit from dormancy with live imaging. We saw that cell populations capable of surviving entrance into long-term dormancy were heterogeneous, containing quiescent, cell cycle–arrested, and actively proliferating cells. Cell populations capable of entering dormancy formed an organized, fibrillar fibronectin matrix via αvβ3 and α5β1 integrin adhesion, ROCK-generated tension, and TGFβ2 stimulation, and cancer cell outgrowth after dormancy required MMP-2–mediated fibronectin degradation. We propose this approach as a useful, in vitro method to study factors important in regulating dormancy, and we used it here to elucidate a role for fibronectin deposition and MMP activation.

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