Understanding the role of the WNT signaling pathway in breast cancer dormancy, therapy resistance and cancer relapse.
From all cancer types, breast cancer is the most frequent and most deadly among women. In Europe, Belgium ranks first in breast cancer incidence and, according to the Belgian Cancer Registry, the yearly number of cases is expected to keep rising. Breast cancer has several clinical subtypes with different treatment options. Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive subtype for which specific treatment options are not available. As such, the only therapeutic options are surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Despite the fact that this breast cancer subtype responds more extensively than others to chemotherapy, prognosis remains worse than non TNBCs. This is due to a higher probability of relapse within the first five years after treatment. Relapse is also accompanied by worsened prognosis and a high probability of disease related death. Developing new therapeutic approaches which address the problem of cancer recurrence is vital to successfully treat this disease. A small population of Breast Cancer Stem Cells (BCSCs) lies in a dormant state which protects them from Chemo- or Radio-therapy treatments. But what causes some cancer cells to go to "sleep" is unknown. After chemotherapy, dormant cells awake giving rise to cancer relapse. Understanding the mechanisms regulating tumour dormancy, can allow us to develop approaches which eradicate dormant cells, prevent their re-emergence, identify risk factors or markers of cancer recurrence and beat cancer relapse.