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Cancer Res. 2011 Feb 1;71(3):634-9. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-3220. Epub 2011 Jan 25.

Cancer stem cell niche: the place to be.

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Laboratory for Experimental Oncology and Radiobiology, Center for Experimental Molecular Medicine, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands.


Tumors are being increasingly perceived as abnormal organs that, in many respects, recapitulate the outgrowth and differentiation patterns of normal tissues. In line with this idea is the observation that only a small fraction of tumor cells is capable of initiating a new tumor. Because of the features that these cells share with somatic stem cells, they have been termed cancer stem cells (CSC). Normal stem cells reside in a "stem cell niche" that maintains them in a stem-like state. Recent data suggest that CSCs also rely on a similar niche, dubbed the "CSC niche," which controls their self-renewal and differentiation. Moreover, CSCs can be generated by the microenvironment through induction of CSC features in more differentiated tumor cells. In addition to a role in CSC maintenance, the microenvironment is hypothesized to be involved in metastasis by induction of the epithelial-mesenchymal transition, leading to dissemination and invasion of tumor cells. The localization of secondary tumors also seems to be orchestrated by the microenvironment, which is suggested to form a premetastatic niche. Thus, the microenvironment seems to be of crucial importance for primary tumor growth as well as metastasis formation. Combined with its role in the protection of CSCs against genotoxic insults, these data strongly put forward the niche as an important target for novel therapies.

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