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Biomedicines. 2018 May 4;6(2). pii: E50. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines6020050.

Mammary Stem Cells and Breast Cancer Stem Cells: Molecular Connections and Clinical Implications.

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Cancer Research Program, IMIM (Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute), 08003 Barcelona, Spain.


Cancer arises from subpopulations of transformed cells with high tumor initiation and repopulation ability, known as cancer stem cells (CSCs), which share many similarities with their normal counterparts. In the mammary gland, several studies have shown common molecular regulators between adult mammary stem cells (MaSCs) and breast cancer stem cells (bCSCs). Cell plasticity and self-renewal are essential abilities for MaSCs to maintain tissue homeostasis and regenerate the gland after pregnancy. Intriguingly, these properties are similarly executed in breast cancer stem cells to drive tumor initiation, tumor heterogeneity and recurrence after chemotherapy. In addition, both stem cell phenotypes are strongly influenced by external signals from the microenvironment, immune cells and supportive specific niches. This review focuses on the intrinsic and extrinsic connections of MaSC and bCSCs with clinical implications for breast cancer progression and their possible therapeutic applications.


cancer stem cells; cell plasticity; immune interplay; mammary stem cells; targeting CSCs; tumor microenvironment

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