Stem Cell Reviews

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 179–192 | Cite as

In Search of Liver Cancer Stem Cells

  • Stephanie Ma
  • Kwok Wah Chan
  • Xin-Yuan GuanEmail author


Recent research efforts in stem cell and cancer biology have put forth a “stem cell model of carcinogenesis” which stipulates that the capability to maintain tumor formation and growth specifically resides in a small population of cells called cancer stem cells. The stem cell-like characteristics of these cells, including their ability to self-renew and differentiate; and their limited number within the bulk of the tumor mass, are believed to account for their capability to escape conventional therapies. In the past few years, the hypothesis of stem cell-driven tumorigenesis in liver cancer has received substantial support from the recent ability to identify and isolate a subpopulation of liver cancer cells that is not only able to initiate tumor growth, but also serially establish themselves as tumor xenografts with high efficiency and consistency. In this review, stem cell biology that contributes to explain tumor development in the particular context of liver cancer will be discussed. We will begin by briefly considering the knowledge available on normal liver stem cells and their role in tissue renewal and regeneration. We will then summarize the current scientific knowledge of liver cancer stem cells, discuss their relevance to the diagnosis and treatment of the disease and consider the outstanding challenges and potential opportunities that lie ahead of us.


HCC Liver cancer stem cells CD133 Liver regeneration ALDH 



hepatic progenitor cells


hematopoietic stem cells


cancer stem cells


hepatocellular carcinoma


hepatitis B virus


hepatitis C virus


side population


percutaneous ethanol injection


radiofrequency ablation


transarterial chemoembolization


aldehyde dehydrogenase


acute lymphoblastic leukemia


acute myeloid leukemia


non-obese severe-combined immunodeficient


adenosine triphosphate


Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Humana Press 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Pathology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of MedicineThe University of Hong KongPokfulamChina
  2. 2.Departments of Clincial Oncology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of MedicineThe University of Hong KongPokfulamChina
  3. 3.Department of Clinical OncologyThe University of Hong KongPokfulamChina

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