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Cell Stem Cell. 2014 Mar 6;14(3):306-21. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2014.02.002.

Metastatic stem cells: sources, niches, and vital pathways.

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Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine (HI-STEM gGmbH), 69120 Heidelberg, Germany; Division of Stem Cells and Cancer, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), 69120 Heidelberg, Germany; German Cancer Consortium (DKTK), 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.
Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB Barcelona), 08028 Barcelona, Spain; Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA), 08010 Barcelona, Spain.
Cancer Biology and Genetics Program, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY 10065, USA; Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Chevy Chase, MD 20815, USA. Electronic address:


Metastasis is powered by disseminated cancer cells that re-create a full-fledged tumor in unwelcoming tissues, away from the primary site. How cancer cells moving from a tumor into the circulation manage to infiltrate distant organs and initiate metastatic growth is of interest to cancer biologists and clinical oncologists alike. Recent findings have started to define the sources, phenotypic properties, hosting niches, and signaling pathways that support the survival, self-renewal, dormancy, and reactivation of cancer cells that initiate metastasis: metastatic stem cells. By dissecting the biology of this process, vulnerabilities are being exposed that could be exploited to prevent metastasis.

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