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J Nippon Med Sch. 2011;78(3):138-45.

Development and maintenance of cancer stem cells under chronic inflammation.

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  • 1Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Department of Oncology/Hematologic Malignancies, USA.


In many human cancers, tumorigenic potential is not equally shared by all cells but is restricted to phenotypically distinct subpopulations termed cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are also capable of both self-renewal and differentiation, and these functional properties have been suggested to play major roles in tumor initiation and progression. The factors responsible for the development of cancer stem cells and their subsequent regulation are unclear, but several chronic inflammatory states have been associated with an increased risk of malignancy. Therefore, it is possible that specific processes associated with chronic inflammation, as well as the adaptation to cellular stress, regulate cancer stem cells. Several factors associated with chronic inflammation, including cytokines, oxidative stress, and hypoxia, induce the activation of specific cellular response programs that can affect the survival, proliferation, metabolism, and differentiation of cancer cells, as well as the self-renewal and quiescence of normal stem cells. In this review, we discuss how these adaptive processes potentially become subverted to enhance the development and function of cancer stem cells.

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