The bone marrow niche in support of breast cancer dormancy

Nykia D. Walker, Jimmy Patel, Jessian L. Munoz, Madeleine Hu, Khadidiatou Guiro, Garima Sinha, Pranela Rameshwar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Despite the success in detecting breast cancer (BC) early and, with aggressive therapeutic intervention, BC remains a clinical problem. The bone marrow (BM) is a favorable metastatic site for breast cancer cells (BCCs). In BM, the survival of BCCs is partly achieved by the supporting microenvironment, including the presence of immune suppressive cells such as mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). The heterogeneity of BCCs brings up the question of how each subset interacts with the BM microenvironment. The cancer stem cells (CSCs) survive in the BM as cycling quiescence cells and, forming gap junctional intercellular communication (GJIC) with the hematopoietic supporting stromal cells and MSCs. This type of communication has been identified close to the endosteum. Additionally, dormancy can occur by soluble mediators such as cytokines and also by the exchange of exosomes. These latter mechanisms are reviewed in the context of metastasis of BC to the BM for transition as dormant cells. The article also discusses how immune cells such as macrophages and regulatory T-cells facilitate BC dormancy. The challenges of studying BC dormancy in 2-dimensional (2-D) system are also incorporated by proposing 3-D system by engineering methods to recapitulate the BM microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-271
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Letters
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Bone marrow
  • Breast cancer
  • Connexin
  • Cytokines
  • Dormancy
  • Gap junction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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