Tumor dormancy is a stage in which residual cancer cells remain inactive, but regrowth of dormant cancer cells contributes to recurrence. The complex ecosystem in cancer that promotes cell survival and the factors that eventually overcome growth constraints and result in proliferation remain to be fully elucidated. Doing so may provide new insights and help identify novel strategies to prolong cancer dormancy and prevent disease recurrence. To dissect the molecular pathways and the microenvironments involved in regulation of dormancy, we utilized a novel immunocompetent transgenic model to study minimal residual disease and relapse. This model revealed a significant reorganization of cancer cell structures, stroma, and immune cells, with cancer cells showing dormant cell signatures. Single-cell RNA sequencing uncovered remodeling of myeloid and lymphoid compartments. In addition, the Jagged-1/Notch signaling pathway was shown to regulate many aspects of tumorigenesis, including stem cell development, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, and immune cell homeostasis during minimal residual disease. Treatment with an anti–Jagged-1 antibody inhibited the Jagged-1/Notch signaling pathway in tumor cells and the microenvironment, delaying tumor recurrence. These findings uncover a cascade of regulatory changes in the microenvironment during dormancy and identify a therapeutic strategy to undercut these changes.

Significance:

Single-cell RNA-sequencing analysis reveals dormancy-associated changes in immune and stromal cells and demonstrates a rationale to pursue Jagged-1/Notch pathway inhibition as a viable therapeutic strategy to reduce disease recurrence.

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