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The roots of cancer: Stem cells and the basis for tumor heterogeneity

Authors

  • Maho Shibata,

    1. Departments of Medicine and Genetics and Development, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY, USA
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  • Michael M. Shen

    Corresponding author
    1. Departments of Medicine and Genetics and Development, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY, USA
    • Departments of Medicine and Genetics and Development, Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, NY 10032, USA
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Abstract

Recent studies of prostate cancer and other tumor types have revealed significant support, as well as unexpected complexities, for the application of concepts from normal stem cell biology to cancer. In particular, the cell of origin and cancer stem cell models have been proposed to explain the heterogeneity of tumors during the initiation, propagation, and evolution of cancer. Thus, a basis of intertumor heterogeneity has emerged from studies investigating whether stem cells and/or non-stem cells can serve as cells of origin for cancer and give rise to tumor subtypes that vary in disease outcome. Furthermore, analyses of putative cancer stem cells have revealed the genetically diverse nature of cancers and expanded our understanding of intratumor heterogeneity and clonal evolution. Overall, the principles that have emerged from these stem cell studies highlight the challenges to be surmounted to develop effective treatment strategies for cancer.

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