Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are tumor-initiating cells (TICs) that produce the various differentiated progeny that make up the bulk of the rapidly dividing tumor.1,2 They represent a small subpopulation of the tumor.
CSCs are unique in that they both self-renew and generate differentiated progeny, so they retain certain features of normal stem cells, such as:
Efforts to identify CSC or tumor initiating cell (TIC) biomarkers have been largely unsuccessful due to overlapping expression in normal tissues.1,2
Due to the features they share with normal stem cells, CSCs may be more resistant than other tumor cells to traditional chemotherapy and radiation.3,4
Inhibiting CSC function has the potential to overcome chemoresistance by blocking the tumor cell's ability to regenerate, exhausting its growth potential.
Recent technological advances, such as patient-derived xenografts (PDX) and next-generation sequencing, will allow the precise study of TICs and the identification of potential targets. The identification of CSC- or TIC-specific biomarkers may allow the targeted elimination of these cancer cells.2,4
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