Cell competition, a fitness-sensing process, is essential for tissue homeostasis. Using cancer metastatic latency models, we show that cell competition results in the displacement of latent metastatic (Lat-M) cells from the primary tumor. Lat-M cells resist anoikis and survive as residual metastatic disease. A memodeled extracellular matrix facilitates Lat-M cell displacement and survival in circulation. Disrupting cell competition dynamics by depleting secreted protein and rich in cysteine (SPARC) reduced displacement from orthotopic tumors and attenuated metastases. In contrast, depletion of SPARC after extravasation in lung-resident Lat-M cells increased metastatic outgrowth. Furthermore, multiregional transcriptomic analyses of matched primary tumors and metachronous metastases from patients with kidney cancer identified tumor subclones with Lat-M traits. Kidney cancer enriched for these Lat-M traits had a rapid onset of metachronous metastases and significantly reduced disease-free survival. Thus, an unexpected consequence of cell competition is the displacement of cells with Lat-M potential, thereby shaping metastatic latency and relapse.
We demonstrate that cell competition within the primary tumor results in the displacement of Lat-M cells. We further show the impact of altering cell competition dynamics on metastatic incidence that may guide strategies to limit metastatic recurrences.