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J Carcinog. 2011;10:38. doi: 10.4103/1477-3163.91413. Epub 2011 Dec 31.

Shared signaling pathways in normal and breast cancer stem cells.

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Department of Genetics, Cell Biology and Anatomy, College of Medicine, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, USA.


Recent advances in our understanding of breast cancer biology have led to the identification of a subpopulation of cells within tumors that appear to be responsible for initiating and propagating the cancer. These tumor initiating cells are not only unique in their ability to generate tumors, but also share many similarities with elements of normal adult tissue stem cells, and have therefore been termed cancer stem cells (CSCs). These CSCs often inappropriately use many of the same signaling pathways utilized by their normal stem cell counterparts which may present a challenge to the development of CSC specific therapies. Here, we discuss three major stem cell signaling pathways (Notch, Wnt, and Hedgehog); with a focus on their function in normal mammary gland development and their misuse in breast cancer stem cell fate determination.


Cancer stem cell; Wnt; hedgehog; mammary stem cell; notch

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