Although common cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy, have recently improved and yielded good results, evaluated as tumor shrinkage, disease recurrence is still a common event for most cancer patients. This is termed refractory cancer. This tumor regrowth following therapy is generally thought to be caused by a small, specific population of tumor cells called cancer stem cells (CSCs). Similar to other stem cells, CSCs have the capacity for self-renewal and multipotent differentiation, and they have been identified in many tumor types based on cell surface protein expression. This specific cell population has stemness characteristics as examined by serial transplantation in animal models. Previous studies have developed a specific signature of cell surface markers and biological functions that can identify CSCs in many solid tumors. In this review, we summarize the characterization of CSCs using new techniques for identifying and quantifying them in situ. These techniques and concepts could be valuable for evaluating the effects of therapies on this cell population. Finally, we conclude by discussing several unique preclinical treatment strategies to targets CSCs, such as reprogramming CSCs or inducing attack by immune cells. Therapeutic and diagnostic methodologies that can target and quantify CSCs will be valuable tools for eradicating refractory cancer.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Biomedical Engineering
- Developmental Biology