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Advanced Healthcare Materials


Breast cancer is a leading cause of global cancer-related deaths, and metastasis is the overwhelming culprit of poor patient prognosis. The most nefarious aspect of metastasis is dormancy, a prolonged period between primary tumor resection and relapse. Current therapies are insufficient at killing dormant cells; thus, they can remain quiescent in the body for decades until eventually undergoing a phenotypic switch, resulting in metastases that are more adaptable and more drug resistant. Unfortunately, dormancy has few in vitro models, largely because lab-derived cell lines are highly proliferative. Existing models address tumor dormancy, not cellular dormancy, because tracking individual cells is technically challenging. To combat this problem, we adapted a live cell lineage approach to find and track individual dormant cells, distinguishing them from proliferative and dying cells over multiple days. We applied this approach across a range of different in vitro microenvironments. Our approach revealed that the proportion of cells that exhibited long-term quiescence was regulated by both cell intrinsic and extrinsic factors, with the most dormant cells found in 3D collagen gels. We envision that this approach will prove useful to biologists and bioengineers in the dormancy community to identify, quantify, and study dormant tumor cells.


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Available for download on Monday, November 18, 2024