• inflammatory breast cancer;
  • stem cells;
  • nuclear factor-kappa B;
  • epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition;
  • microRNA


Stem cells are pluripotent cells, with a large replicative potential, which perform normal physiological functions such as tissue renewal and damage repair. However, because of their long lifespan and high replicative potential, stem cells are ideal targets to accumulate multiple mutations. Therefore, they can be regarded as being responsible for the initiation of tumor formation. In the past, numerous studies have shown that the presence of an elaborate stem cell compartment within a tumor is associated with aggressive tumor cell behavior, frequent formation of metastases, resistance to therapy, and poor patient survival. From this perspective, tumors from patients with inflammatory breast cancer (IBC), an aggressive breast cancer subtype with a dismal clinical course, are most likely to be associated with stem cell biology. To date, this hypothesis is corroborated by evidence resulting from in vitro and in vivo experiments. Both gene and microRNA expression profiles highlighted several stem cell-specific signal transduction pathways that are hyperactivated in IBC. Also, these stem cell-specific signal transduction pathways seem to converge in the activation of nuclear factor-kappa B, a molecular hallmark of IBC, and induction of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition. Recently, the latter mechanism was identified as a prerequisite for the induction of stem cell characteristics in breast cancer cells. Cancer 2010;116(11 suppl):2794–805. © 2010 American Cancer Society.