Chapter 11: Cancer Stem Cells as Therapeutic Targets
Published:09 Aug 2016
Heterogeneity is one of the essential hallmarks of cancers. Bulk cancer cells are composed of a striking variability with differences in biological characteristics including the proliferation rate, cell–cell interaction, metastatic tendency and even sensitivity to anticancer therapies. Such diversity makes the investigation and treatment of cancers complicated. Increasing evidence suggest this plasticity of cancers results from the self-renewing and differentiation of a small subpopulation of cancer cells with stem-like properties, called cancer stem cells (CSCs). CSCs are believed to be responsible for the resistance to conventional therapies and metastatic abilities in clinical practice. A recently developed visualization system for CSCs is useful for identifying compounds that are specifically toxic to the CSCs. This review summarizes the molecular pathogenesis of CSCs on the basis of these recent studies and a promising strategy for a novel therapy based on targeting the signal transduction pathways and/or asymmetric division mechanisms of CSCs.