In a manuscript recently published in Nature (Correia et al 2021), we introduced the existence of tissue-intrinsic switches that leverage disseminated tumor cell (DTC) awakening. In the liver, we found that natural killer (NK) cell abundance sustains breast DTC dormancy, while disruptions in hepatic physiology breach the NK cell barrier to metastasis. This suggests that dormancy can be maintained as long as normal tissue physiology is controlled. Furthermore, because each tissue has a particular physiology, architecture, and resident cell types, it is likely that tissue specificities shape metastatic progression. This opens the amazing possibility that, once tissue-specific barriers to metastatic outgrowth are elucidated, metastases can and should be preventable.
This project outlines a multidisciplinary approach to resolve tissue-specific barriers to metastasis. We acknowledge funding by EMBO (EMBO Installation Grant) and FCT (ERC-Portugal Grant).