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Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2011 Jun;30(2):185-97. doi: 10.1007/s10555-011-9277-0.

DNA repair: the culprit for tumor-initiating cell survival?

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Cancer Stem Cell Section, Laboratory of Cancer Prevention, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute at Frederick, 1050 Boyles St., Building 560, Room 21-81, Frederick, MD 21702, USA.


The existence of "tumor-initiating cells" (TICs) has been a topic of heated debate for the last few years within the field of cancer biology. Their continuous characterization in a variety of solid tumors has led to an abundance of evidence supporting their existence. TICs are believed to be responsible for resistance against conventional treatment regimes of chemotherapy and radiation, ultimately leading to metastasis and patient demise. This review summarizes DNA repair mechanism(s) and their role in the maintenance and regulation of stem cells. There is evidence supporting the hypothesis that TICs, similar to embryonic stem (ES) cells and hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), display an increase in their ability to survive genotoxic stress and injury. Mechanistically, the ability of ES cells, HSCs and TICs to survive under stressful conditions can be attributed to an increase in the efficiency at which these cells undergo DNA repair. Furthermore, the data presented in this review summarize the results found by our lab and others demonstrating that TICs have an increase in their genomic stability, which can allow for TIC survival under conditions such as anticancer treatments, while the bulk population of tumor cells dies. We believe that these data will greatly impact the development and design of future therapies being engineered to target and eradicate this highly aggressive cancer cell population.

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