Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 72, Issue 18, pp 3411–3424 | Cite as

Cancer stem cells: a potential target for cancer therapy

Review

Abstract

Current evidence indicates that a subpopulation of cancer cells, named cancer stem cells (CSCs) or tumor-initiating cells, are responsible for the initiation, growth, metastasis, therapy resistance and recurrence of cancers. CSCs share core regulatory pathways with normal stem cells; however, CSCs rely on distinct reprogrammed pathways to maintain stemness and to contribute to the progression of cancers. The specific targeting of CSCs, together with conventional chemotherapy or radiotherapy, may achieve stable remission or cure cancer. Therefore, the identification of CSCs and a better understanding of the complex characteristics of CSCs will provide invaluable diagnostic, therapeutic and prognostic targets for clinical application. In this review, we will introduce the dysregulated properties of CSCs in cancers and discuss the possible challenges in targeting CSCs for cancer treatment.

Keywords

Cancer-initiating cell Self-renewal Tumorigenesis Tumor metastasis 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank David Schumick from the Medical Art and Photography Centers at the Cleveland Clinic for creating and modifying the figures in this study. Reprinted with the permission of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Medical Art and Photography © 2015. All rights reserved. This work was supported by grants from the National Nature Science Foundation of China (Nos. 81372841, 31171339, 31071302), the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, the Program for New Century Excellent Talents in University (NCET-11-0296) and the Scientific Fund for Distinguished Young Investigator of Fujian Province (2010J06013).

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Cellular Stress Biology, Innovation Center for Cell Signaling Network, School of Life SciencesXiamen UniversityXiamenChina
  2. 2.Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative MedicineLerner Research Institute, Cleveland ClinicClevelandUSA
  3. 3.Department of Surgical OncologyFirst Affiliated Hospital of Xiamen UniversityXiamenChina

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