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Oncol Lett. 2012 Aug;4(2):187-193. Epub 2012 May 25.

Tumor stem cells: A new approach for tumor therapy (Review).

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Department of Oncology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Medical School of Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an, Shaanxi 710061, P.R. China.


Recent studies have demonstrated the existence of a minority of tumor cells possessing the stem cell properties of self-renewal and differentiation in leukemia and several solid tumors. However, these cells do not possess the normal regulatory mechanisms of stem cells. Following transplantation, they are capable of initiating tumorigenesis and are therefore known as 'tumor stem cells'. Cellular origin analysis of tumor stem cells has resulted in three hypotheses: Embryonal rest hypothesis, anaplasia and maturation arrest. Several signaling pathways which are involved in carcinogenesis, including Wnt/β-catenin, Notch and Oct-4 signaling pathways are crucial in normal stem cell self-renewal decisions, suggesting that breakdown in the regulation of self-renewal may be a key event in the development of tumors. Thus, tumors can be regarded as an abnormal organ in which stem cells have escaped from the normal constraints on self-renewal, thus, leading to abnormally differentiated tumor cells that lose the ability to form tumors. This new model for maligancies has significance for clinical research and treatment.

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