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Semin Oncol. 2015 Apr;42 Suppl 1:S3-17. doi: 10.1053/j.seminoncol.2015.01.001. Epub 2015 Jan 21.

Cancer stem cells: the promise and the potential.

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Professor, Department of Gastrointestinal (GI) Medical Oncology, Division of Cancer Medicine; Professor, Department of Epidemiology, Division of OVP, Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX. Electronic address:
Associate Professor, Department of Gastrointestinal (GI) Medical Oncology-Research, Division of Cancer Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX.
Associate Director, Yale Cancer Center; Professor of Medicine, Yale School of Medicine, New Haven, CT.
Vice President, Medical Affairs, Boston Biomedical, Cambridge, MA.


Despite the advancement of treatment modalities, many cancer patients experience tumor recurrence and metastasis at regional or distant sites. Evolving understanding of tumor biology has led to the hypothesis that tumors may possess a stem cell-like subpopulation known as cancer stem cells (CSCs) that may be involved in driving tumor propagation and pathogenesis. Like normal stem cells (NSCs), CSCs can be identified by markers such as CD133, CD44, and ALDH. CSCs have the ability to self-renew and differentiate into different tumor components through stemness pathways, such as Wnt, TGF-β, STAT, and Hippo-YAP/TAZ, among others. In NSCs, stemness pathways are strictly regulated and control many important biologic processes, including embryogenesis and intestinal crypt cellular regulation. In contrast, stemness pathways in CSCs are significantly dysregulated. Combining current drugs with the targeting of these stemness pathways may significantly improve patient prognosis. The aim of this supplement is to update clinicians on the accumulated evidence characterizing the role of CSCs in tumor initiation, heterogeneity, therapy resistance, and recurrence and metastasis, and the potential for effectively treating patients.

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