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J Hepatol. 2010 Sep;53(3):568-77. doi: 10.1016/j.jhep.2010.05.003. Epub 2010 May 31.

Epigenetic regulation of cancer stem cells in liver cancer: current concepts and clinical implications.

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Laboratory of Experimental Carcinogenesis, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute, NIH, MD, USA.


The two dominant models of carcinogenesis postulate stochastic (clonal evolution) or hierarchic organization of tumor (cancer stem cell model). According to the latter, at the germinal center of tumor evolution is a cancer stem cell (CSC) which, similar to normal adult stem cells, possesses the capacity of self-renewal and a differentiation potential. Over the past few years, compelling evidence has emerged in support of the hierarchic cancer model for many solid tumors including hepatocellular cancers. The CSCs are posited to be responsible not only for tumor initiation but also for the generation of distant metastasis and relapse after therapy. These characteristics are particularly relevant for a multi-resistant tumor entity like human hepatocellular carcinoma and may herald a paradigm shift in the management of this deadly disease. Identification and detailed characterization of liver CSCs is therefore imperative for improving prevention approaches, enhancing early detection, and extending the limited treatment options. Despite the current progress in understanding the contribution of CSCs to the generation of heterogeneity of tumors, the molecular complexity and exact regulation of CSCs is poorly understood. This review focuses on the genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that regulate and define the unique CSC properties with an emphasis on key regulatory pathways of liver CSCs and their clinical significance.

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