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Semin Cancer Biol. 2012 Oct;22(5-6):462-70. doi: 10.1016/j.semcancer.2012.04.006. Epub 2012 Apr 23.

The bed and the bugs: interactions between the tumor microenvironment and cancer stem cells.

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Hematology Division, Brigham & Women's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Tumors have been increasingly recognized as organs with a complexity that approaches, and may even exceed, that of healthy tissues. When viewed from this perspective, the biology of a tumor can be understood only by studying tumor cell heterogeneity and the microenvironment that is constructed during the course of tumorigenesis and malignant progression. Recent work has revealed the existence of cancer stem cells, the "bugs", with the capacity for self-renewal and tumor propagation. In addition, it is now recognized that the tumor microenvironment, the "bed", plays a critical role in supporting cancer stem cells and also may promote neoplasia and malignant progression. The interdependence of the cell-intrinsic features of cancer, including the cancer stem cell "bugs" and the tumor microenvironment "bed", is only beginning to be understood. In this review, we highlight the rapidly evolving concepts about the interactions between tumor stem cells and their microenvironment, the insights gained from studying their normal tissue counterparts, and the questions and controversies surrounding this area of research, with an emphasis on breast and lung cancer. Finally, we address evidence supporting the notion that eliminating the bed as well as the bugs should lead to more effective and personalized cancer treatments that improve patient outcome.

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