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Cancer Stem Cells

  1. Mei Zhang,
  2. Jeffrey M. Rosen

Published Online: 10 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/3527600906.mcb.201200005

Encyclopedia of Molecular Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

Encyclopedia of Molecular Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine

How to Cite

Zhang, M. and Rosen, J. M. 2013. Cancer Stem Cells. Encyclopedia of Molecular Cell Biology and Molecular Medicine. .

Author Information

  1. University of Pittsburgh, Department of Developmental Biology, Pittsburgh, PA, US

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 10 FEB 2013


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a subpopulation of cells with the potential to both self-renew – that is, to regenerate themselves – and to differentiate along a particular lineage to give rise to the heterogeneity of cells within tumors. Due to their intrinsic properties, CSCs have reported to be enriched after chemotherapy and radiation treatment, and thus have been hypothesized to be responsible for cancer recurrence. CSCs also may enter the circulatory system and colonize at remote sites, resulting in metastasis. The cell of origin of CSCs remains controversial, as indicated by evidence suggesting an origin from normal stem cells, as well as dedifferentiation from more mature cells. CSCs actively interact with their surrounding microenvironment, the niche. Multiple signaling pathways, many of which are regulated by microRNAs, also have been demonstrated to regulate the activities of both normal and cancer stem cells. Therapeutic targeting of CSCs, as well as the bulk tumor cells, therefore, may be required to eradicate residual disease.


  • Cancer stem cell;
  • Tumor-initiating cells;
  • Wnt/ß-catenin signaling;
  • Notch signaling;
  • Hedgehog signaling;
  • Radiation and chemotherapy resistance;
  • Limiting dilution transplantation;
  • Sphere assay