Cancer metastasis can occur years after treatment, triggered by dormant disseminated cancer cells (DCCs) that can spread years before the primary tumor has been detected. How DCCs stay dormant over long periods of time has been a mystery.
In a study published online on September 1 in Nature Cancer, Julio Aguirre-Ghiso, Ph.D., and colleagues used a mouse model of breast cancer to study early DCCs that have spread to the lungs. Using single-cell RNA sequencing, the researchers identified the transcription factor ZFP281 as the master switch that regulates the early spread of DCCs and locks them in a dormant state. The researchers also observed that some early human breast cancers contain elevated levels of ZFP281, which might serve as a marker indicating that DCCs have already spread and become dormant. The findings indicate that targeting ZFP281 or the programs it regulates might eliminate DCCs or keep them in a harmless dormant state.
Dr. Aguirre-Ghiso is professor of cell biology, of medicine, and of oncology, director of the Cancer Dormancy and Tumor Microenvironment Institute, and co-director of the Gruss-Lipper Biophotonics Center at Einstein.
Posted on: Thursday, September 01, 2022