Bear hibernation cancer cells: they can hide from chemotherapy

Cancer cells can hibernate

The scientists found that cancer cells are capable of falling into a conditional bear hibernation. This process helps them to avoid chemotherapy. Sensing the threat posed by treatment, cancer cells use tactics to survive during periods when their resources become limited. Knowing how cancer eludes and confronts treatment is important work for scientists as they strive to defeat cancer in the coming years.

Preclinical studies demonstrated the ability of these cells to slow down in growth and development so that they are not affected by therapy. It explains the failure in treatment and recurrence of tumor conditions.


Researcher and surgeon Katherine O’Brien of the Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Canada says that any cancer is a whole organism that can go into slow dividing mode to conserve internal energy and survive. Vivid similar examples from the animal world are the hibernation of bears. A cancerous tumor behaves in about the same way. Cells use this state to survive. During the experiment, the scientists discovered that cancer cells go into a state of hibernation.

They stop expanding, it means that they need a limited amount of nutrients to survive. These observations suggest that a survival strategy can be observed in any cancer cell. Another experiment was carried out on mice.

Once they developed tumors of a certain size, they were treated with standard chemotherapy. The scientists saw little growth in cells that had been treated for 7 weeks. But as soon as the treatment was stopped, cell growth resumed. The final stage cancer cells were then inoculated into new mice.


The regrown cells remained responsive to treatment, including embryonic diapause. It allows animals, including mice, to suspend embryonic development until conditions become more favorable for development again.

Researchers have not observed anything like this before. Having revealed this ability of cells, they intend to find the key to defeat cancer during its pause.