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Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2008 Feb;18(1):48-53. doi: 10.1016/j.gde.2008.01.017. Epub 2008 Mar 19.

Recent advances in cancer stem cells.

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Department of Pediatrics Division of Stem Cell Transplantation, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA 94304-1334, United States.


The theory of cancer stem cells states that a subset of cancer cells within a tumor has the ability to self-renew and differentiate. Only those cells within a tumor that have these two properties are called cancer stem cells. This concept was first demonstrated in the study of leukemia where only cells with specific surface antigen profiles were able to cause leukemia when engrafted into immunodeficient mice. In recent years solid tumors were studied utilizing similar techniques in mice. Human tumors where evidence of cancer stem cells has been published include tumors of the breast, brain, pancreas, head and neck, and colon. If this difference in tumorigenicity of cancer cells also occurs in patients, then the ability to enrich for cancer stem cells lays an important groundwork for future studies where mechanisms involved in cancer stem cells can now be investigated.

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