Eukaryotic cell encystation and cancer cell dormancy: is a greater devil veiled in the details of a lesser evil?

Document Type



Biological and Biomedical Sciences


Cancer cell dormancy is the main cause of cancer recurrence and failure of therapy as dormant cells evade not only the anticancer drugs but also the host immune system. These dormant cells veil themselves from detection by imaging and/or using biomarkers, which imposes an additional problem in targeting such cells. A similar form of hibernation process known as encystation is studied in detail for pathogenic unicellular eukaryotic microorganisms. By examination using microarray gene expression profiles, immunocytochemistry tools, and siRNAs during the process of encystation, understanding the covert features of cancer cell dormancy as proposed could be possible. This knowledge can be extended to dormant cancer cells to uncover the mechanisms that underlie this ghost, yet dangerous state of human cancers. We propose a strategy to induce dormancy and exit this state by application of knowledge gained from the encystation induction and retrieval processes in pathogenic eukaryotic microorganisms. Given that early detection and characterization of dormant malignant tumor cells is important as a general strategy to monitor and prevent the development of overt metastatic disease, this homology may enable the design of therapies that could either awake the dormant cell from dormancy to make it available for therapies or prolong such a phase to make cancer appear as a chronic disease.


Cancer Biology and Medicine