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Br J Dermatol. 2011 Apr;164(4):696-711. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.10158.x. Epub 2011 Mar 16.

Basal cell carcinoma: cell of origin, cancer stem cell hypothesis and stem cell markers.

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Department of Dermatology, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.


Cancer stem cells have recently been described in several high-grade neoplasms. It is still unclear if they also occur in cutaneous malignancies. Cancer stem cells are not identical with somatic stem cells. The presence of tumour stem cells in a neoplasm does not in itself equal that the tumour derives from a somatic stem cell. A cell originally lacking stem cell characteristics could also acquire those features during the course of carcinogenesis and then becomes the clonal founder cell of a tumour. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common cutaneous malignancy. A plethora of various stem cell markers has been applied to study its cellular origin. Intriguingly, the anatomical origin of BCC is still uncertain. This review will discuss the various stem cell markers used in BCC and the cellular origin of this tumour, and touches briefly on the possibility of cancer stem cells in BCC. If BCC or other skin cancers harbour tumour stem cells, these cells could be specifically targeted, making use of specific cell surface molecules such as receptor proteins. Novel drugs directed against those receptor proteins could replace currently available shotgun approaches including imiquimod.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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