Dormant or slow-cycling tumor cells can form a residual chemoresistant reservoir responsible for relapse in patients, years after curative surgery and adjuvant therapy. We have adapted the pulse-chase expression of H2BeGFP for labeling and isolating slow-cycling cancer cells (SCCCs). SCCCs showed cancer initiation potential and enhanced chemoresistance. Cells at this slow-cycling status presented a distinctive nongenetic and cell-autonomous gene expression profile shared across different tumor types. We identified TET2 epigenetic enzyme as a key factor controlling SCCC numbers, survival, and tumor recurrence. 5-Hydroxymethylcytosine (5hmC), generated by TET2 enzymatic activity, labeled the SCCC genome in carcinomas and was a predictive biomarker of relapse and survival in cancer patients. We have shown the enhanced chemoresistance of SCCCs and revealed 5hmC as a biomarker for their clinical identification and TET2 as a potential drug target for SCCC elimination that could extend patients’ survival.
Isabel Puig, Stephan P. Tenbaum, Irene Chicote, Oriol Arqués, Jordi Martínez-Quintanilla, Estefania Cuesta-Borrás, Lorena Ramírez, Pilar Gonzalo, Atenea Soto, Susana Aguilar, Cristina Eguizabal, Ginevra Caratù, Aleix Prat, Guillem Argilés, Stefania Landolfi, Oriol Casanovas, Violeta Serra, Alberto Villanueva, Alicia G. Arroyo, Luigi Terracciano, Paolo Nuciforo, Joan Seoane, Juan A. Recio, Ana Vivancos, Rodrigo Dienstmann, Josep Tabernero, Héctor G. Palmer