Principles of dormancy evident in high-grade serous ovarian cancer
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In cancer, dormancy refers to a clinical state in which microscopic residual disease becomes non-proliferative and is largely refractory to chemotherapy. Dormancy was first described in breast cancer where disease can remain undetected for decades, ultimately leading to relapse and clinical presentation of the original malignancy. A long latency period can be explained by withdrawal from cell proliferation (cellular dormancy), or a balance between proliferation and cell death that retains low levels of residual disease (tumor mass dormancy). Research into cellular dormancy has revealed features that define this state. They include arrest of cell proliferation, altered cellular metabolism, and unique cell dependencies and interactions with the microenvironment. These characteristics can be shared by dormant cells derived from disparate primary disease sites, suggesting common features exist between them. High-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) disseminates to locations throughout the abdominal cavity by means of cellular aggregates called spheroids. These growth-arrested and therapy-resistant cells are a strong contributor to disease relapse. In this review, we discuss the similarities and differences between ovarian cancer cells in spheroids and dormant properties reported for other cancer disease sites. This reveals that elements of dormancy, such as cell cycle control mechanisms and changes to metabolism, may be similar across most forms of cellular dormancy. However, HGSOC-specific aspects of spheroid biology, including the extracellular matrix organization and microenvironment, are obligatorily disease site specific. Collectively, our critical review of current literature highlights places where HGSOC cell dormancy may offer a more tractable experimental approach to understand broad principles of cellular dormancy in cancer.