Surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy are universally recognized as the most effective anti-cancer therapies. Despite significant advances directed towards elucidating molecular mechanisms and developing clinical trials, cancer still remains a major public health issue. Recent studies have showed that cancer stem cells (CSCs), a small subpopulation of tumor cells, can generate bulk populations of nontumorigenic cancer cell progeny through the self-renewal and differentiation processes. As CSCs are proposed to persist in tumors as a distinct population and cause relapse and metastasis by giving rise to new tumors, development of CSC-targeted therapeutic strategies holds new hope for improving survival and quality of life in patients with cancer. Therapeutic innovations will emerge from a better understanding of the biology and environment of CSCs, which, however, are largely unexplored. This review summarizes the characteristics, evidences and development of CSCs, as well as implications and challenges for cancer treatment.
- Cancer stem cells
- Signaling pathway