Jordan Bryan

An Embryonic Diapause-like Adaptation with Suppressed Myc Activity Enables Tumor Treatment Persistence

Collaborators at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard recently published an article detailing the transcriptional program characteristic of treatment-persistent tumor cells. Find the summary below and read more at Cancer Cell.


Treatment-persistent residual tumors impede curative cancer therapy. To understand this cancer cell state we generated models of treatment persistence that simulate the residual tumors. We observe that treatment-persistent tumor cells in organoids, xenografts, and cancer patients adopt a distinct and reversible transcriptional program resembling that of embryonic diapause, a dormant stage of suspended development triggered by stress and associated with suppressed Myc activity and overall biosynthesis. In cancer cells, depleting Myc or inhibiting Brd4, a Myc transcriptional co-activator, attenuates drug cytotoxicity through a dormant diapause-like adaptation with reduced apoptotic priming. Conversely, inducible Myc upregulation enhances acute chemotherapeutic activity. Maintaining residual cells in dormancy after chemotherapy by inhibiting Myc activity or interfering with the diapause-like adaptation by inhibiting cyclin-dependent kinase 9 represent potential therapeutic strategies against chemotherapy-persistent tumor cells. Our study demonstrates that cancer co-opts a mechanism similar to diapause with adaptive inactivation of Myc to persist during treatment.