Journal of Gastroenterology

, Volume 49, Issue 7, pp 1105-1110

First online:

Orchestration of hepatocellular carcinoma development by diverse liver cancer stem cells

  • Taro YamashitaAffiliated withDepartments of General Medicine, Kanazawa University Hospital Email author 
  • , Shuichi KanekoAffiliated withDepartments of Gastroenterology, Kanazawa University Hospital


Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the world’s most aggressive diseases and carries a poor prognosis for patients. Recent evidence suggests that HCC is organized by cancer stem cells (CSCs), which are a subset of cells with stem cell-like features. CSCs are considered a pivotal target for the eradication of cancer, and liver CSCs have been investigated using various stem cell markers. Several hepatic stem/progenitor markers have been shown to be useful for isolating putative CSCs from HCC, although the expression patterns and phenotypic diversity of CSCs purified by these markers remain obscure. Recently, we found that liver CSCs defined by different markers show unique features of tumorigenicity and metastasis, with phenotypes closely associated with committed liver lineages. Furthermore, our data suggest that these distinct CSCs collaborate to orchestrate the tumorigenicity and metastasis of HCC. In this review article, we summarize the recent advances in understanding the pathogenesis and heterogeneity of liver CSCs.


Hepatocellular carcinoma Cancer stem cell Tumorigenicity Metastasis