Clinical and Translational Oncology

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 253–258 | Cite as

Dynamic regulation of cancer stem cells and clinical challenges

  • Chao Ni
  • Jian HuangEmail author


A small population of cancer cells referred to as cancer stem cells (CSCs) have received particular attention, as they have been revealed to acquire stem cell-like properties and become the main cause of tumor propagation, metastasis and drug resistance. The CSC theory of tumor formation was believed to follow the hierarchical model initially, and therefore many CSC-targeted therapy methods were expected to cure cancer by eradicating CSCs. However, subsequent CSC research has revealed that rather than a distinct entity, the CSC is a dynamic status that can be continually dedifferentiated from progenitor or differentiated cancer cells. Elucidation of this bidirectional transition mechanism would help perfect the CSC theory and be of great value in the development of more effective anti-cancer drugs. Here, we reviewed the mechanisms of reciprocal conversion between non-CSCs and CSCs. Moreover, several approaches of target CSCs and non-CSCs together with unbiased eradication of all cancer cells are also discussed.


Cancer stem cells Reprogramming Dedifferentiation Epigenetics Microenvironment 



The authors would like to thank the members of the group for useful discussions.

Conflict of interest

No potential conflicts of interest were disclosed.


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Copyright information

© Federación de Sociedades Españolas de Oncología (FESEO) 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cancer Institute (Key Laboratory of Cancer Prevention and Intervention, National Ministry of Education; Provincial Key Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Medical Sciences), The Second Affiliated HospitalZhejiang University School of MedicineHangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of Oncology, The Second Affiliated HospitalZhejiang University School of MedicineHangzhouChina

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