, Volume 35, Issue 6, pp 397-409
Date: 22 Nov 2012

Interpretation of interlocking key issues of cancer stem cells in malignant solid tumors

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In this review, several interlinking issues related to cancer stem cells (CSCs) in malignant solid tumors are sequentially discussed.


A literature search was performed using PubMed, Web of Science and the Cochrane library, combining the words CSCs, solid tumor, isolation, identification, origination, therapy, target and epithelial–mesenchymal transition.


Because a primary problem is the isolation of CSCs, we first analyzed the advantages and disadvantages of recently used methods, which were mostly based on the physical or immunochemical characteristics of CSCs. Once CSCs are isolated, they should be identified by their stem cell properties. Here, we suggest how to establish a standard identification strategy. We also focused on the origination hypotheses of CSCs. The supporting molecular mechanisms for each theory were thoroughly analyzed and integrated. Especially, epithelial– mesenchymal transition is an increasingly recognized mechanism to generate CSCs that are endowed with a more invasive and metastatic phenotype. Finally, we discuss putative strategies of eliminating CSCs as effective cancer therapies.


After several interlocking issues of CSCs are thoroughly clarified, these CSCs in solid malignant tumors may specifically be targeted, which raises a new hope for eliminating these tumors.