Cancer stem cells and cancer therapy

Tumor Biol. (2011) 32:425440

DOI 10.1007/s13277-011-0155-8


Cancer stem cells and cancer therapy

Sara Soltanian & Maryam M. Matin

Received: 1 November 2010 / Accepted: 10 January 2011 / Published online: 12 February 2011

International Society of Oncology and BioMarkers (ISOBM) 2011


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a subpopulation of tumour cells that possess the stem cell properties of self-renewal and differentiation. Stem cells might be the target cells responsible for malignant transformation, and tumour formation may be a disorder of stem cell self-renewal pathway. Epigenetic alterations and mutations of genes involved in signal transmissions may promote the formation of CSCs. These cells have been identified in many solid tumours including breast, brain, lung, prostate, testis, ovary, colon, skin, liver, and also in acute myeloid leukaemia. The CSC theory clarifies not only the issue of tumour initiation, development, metastasis and relapse, but also the ineffectiveness of conventional cancer therapies. Treatments directed against the bulk of the cancer cells may produce striking responses but they are unlikely to result in long-term remissions if the rare CSCs are not targeted. In this review, we consider the properties of CSCs and possible strategies for controlling the viability and tumourigenecity of these cells, including therapeutic models for selective elimination of CSCs and induction of their proper differentiation.

Keywords: Cancer stem cell, Tumour, Differentiation therapy. Elimination therapy


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