Breast Cancer Stem Cells: Current Advances and Clinical Implications

  • Ming Luo
  • Shawn G. Clouthier
  • Yadwinder Deol
  • Suling Liu
  • Sunitha Nagrath
  • Ebrahim Azizi
  • Max S. Wicha
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 1293)


There is substantial evidence that many cancers, including breast cancer, are driven by a population of cells that display stem cell properties. These cells, termed cancer stem cells (CSCs) or tumor initiating cells, not only drive tumor initiation and growth but also mediate tumor metastasis and therapeutic resistance. In this chapter, we summarize current advances in CSC research with a major focus on breast CSCs (BCSCs). We review the prevailing methods to isolate and characterize BCSCs and recent evidence documenting their cellular origins and phenotypic plasticity that enables them to transition between mesenchymal and epithelial-like states. We describe in vitro and clinical evidence that these cells mediate metastasis and treatment resistance in breast cancer, the development of novel strategies to isolate circulating tumor cells (CTCs) that contain CSCs and the use of patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models in preclinical breast cancer research. Lastly, we highlight several signaling pathways that regulate BCSC self-renewal and describe clinical implications of targeting these cells for breast cancer treatment. The development of strategies to effectively target BCSCs has the potential to significantly improve the outcomes for patients with breast cancer.

Key words

Cancer stem cells (CSCs) Breast cancer Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) Phenotypic plasticity Patient-derived xenograft (PDX) 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media LLC New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ming Luo
    • 1
  • Shawn G. Clouthier
    • 1
  • Yadwinder Deol
    • 1
  • Suling Liu
    • 2
  • Sunitha Nagrath
    • 3
  • Ebrahim Azizi
    • 1
  • Max S. Wicha
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Internal MedicineUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.School of Life SciencesUniversity of Science and Technology of ChinaHefeiChina
  3. 3.Department of Chemical EngineeringUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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