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Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2013 Aug;137(8):1111-6. doi: 10.5858/arpa.2012-0494-RA. Epub 2012 Nov 15.

Cancer stem cells: a review of potential clinical applications.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine, The Methodist Hospital, Houston, TX 77030, USA.



Cancer stem cells (CSCs) comprise a minor cell population in a tumor; however, they possess self-renewal capacity and are responsible for tumor recurrence and the emerging issue of tumor resistance. Despite recent advances in the study of pathogenesis and mechanisms of CSC-mediated disease recurrence and multidrug resistance, many questions remain unanswered.


To provide an overview of CSC theory and to describe major methods of CSC detection and isolation, with the emphasis on those techniques that are potentially relevant in clinical laboratory practice. Particular attention is given to CSC markers, such as cancer testis antigens, which could become promising targets in the development of immunotherapy in settings of minimal residual disease.


The review is based on analysis of peer-reviewed literature cited in PubMed, as well as preliminary results of studies conducted in our laboratory.


Despite a lack of consensus in the scientific community on research methodology, CSCs have demonstrated significant potential as therapeutic targets in the treatment of cancer. Further research of CSC biology and markers will eventually lead to the development of novel therapeutic approaches for targeting these cells to treat resistant and recurrent tumors and minimal residual disease.

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