Tumor cells can persist undetectably for an extended period of time in primary tumors and in disseminated cancer cells. Very little is known about why and how these tumors persist for extended periods of time and then evolve to malignancy. The discovery of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in human tumors challenges our current understanding of tumor recurrence, drug resistance, and metastasis, and opens up new research directions on how cancer cells are capable of switching from dormancy to malignancy. Although overlapping molecules and pathways have been reported to regulate the stem-like phenotype of CSCs and metastasis, accumulated evidence has suggested additional clonal diversity within the stem-like cancer cell subpopulation. This review will describe the current hypothesis linking CSCs and metastasis and summarize mechanisms important for metastatic CSCs to re-initiate tumors in the secondary sites. A better understanding of CSCs’ contribution to clinical tumor dormancy and metastasis will provide new therapeutic revenues to eradicate metastatic tumors and significantly reduce the mortality of cancer patients.
cancer stem cells; metastasis; tumor dormancy; stem-like subpopulations; disseminated CSCs; EMT–MET cooperativity
Recent research in cancer biology has suggested the hypothesis that tumors are initiated and driven by a small group of cancer stem cells (CSCs). Furthermore, cancer stem cell niches have been found to be essential in determining fates of CSCs, and several signaling pathways have been proven to play a crucial role in cellular behavior, which could be two important factors in cancer development. To better understand the progression, heterogeneity and treatment response of breast cancer, especially in the context of CSCs, we propose a mathematical model based on the cell compartment method. In this model, three compartments of cellular subpopulations are constructed: CSCs, progenitor cells (PCs), and terminal differentiated cells (TCs). Moreover, 1) the cancer stem cell niche is, considered by modeling its effect on division patterns (symmetric or asymmetric) of CSCs, and 2) the EGFR signaling pathway is integrated by modeling its role in cell proliferation, apoptosis. Our simulation results indicate that 1) a higher probability for symmetric division of CSC may result in a faster expansion of tumor population, and for a larger number of niches, the tumor grows at a slower rate, but the final tumor volume is larger; 2) higher EGFR expression correlates to tumors with larger volumes while a saturation function is observed, and 3) treatments that inhibit tyrosine kinase activity of EGFR may not only repress the tumor volume, but also decrease the CSCs percentages by shifting CSCs from symmetric divisions to asymmetric divisions. These findings suggest that therapies should be designed to effectively control or eliminate the symmetric division of CSCs and to reduce or destroy the CSC niches.
mathematical model; compartment method; signaling pathway; breast cancer; tyrosine kinase inhibitors
The hypothesis that cancer is driven by a subpopulation of tumor-initiating or cancer stem cells (CSC), defined by their selective ability for extensive self-renewal and capacity to give rise to nontumorigenic cancer cell progeny through differentiation, has been validated experimentally in diverse human malignancies. Translational relevance of the CSC hypothesis is underlined by emerging novel strategies designed to target all subpopulations within a given tumor in order to effect cancer eradication and improve patient outcomes. Colorectal cancer stem cells (CRSCs) have been identified and successfully isolated by several research groups based on distinct cell-surface marker characteristics. Identification of CRSC populations has led to a wave of discoveries describing novel self-renewal and drug resistance mechanisms in colorectal cancer that represent novel future therapeutic targets. In this review, we will discuss emerging CRSC-specific pathways and the therapeutic promise of targeting this cancer population in colorectal cancer patients.
Colorectal cancer; Stem cells; CD133; CD44; ALDH1; ESA; CD166; Therapy; Chemoresistance; Radioresistance; Targeting; ABCB5; 5-FU; Oxaliplatin; Wnt; APC; Lgr5; SMAD4; BMP4; Notch; Il-4; Aurora-A kinase
Recent advances in our understanding of breast cancer biology have led to the identification of a subpopulation of cells within tumors that appear to be responsible for initiating and propagating the cancer. These tumor initiating cells are not only unique in their ability to generate tumors, but also share many similarities with elements of normal adult tissue stem cells, and have therefore been termed cancer stem cells (CSCs). These CSCs often inappropriately use many of the same signaling pathways utilized by their normal stem cell counterparts which may present a challenge to the development of CSC specific therapies. Here, we discuss three major stem cell signaling pathways (Notch, Wnt, and Hedgehog); with a focus on their function in normal mammary gland development and their misuse in breast cancer stem cell fate determination.
Cancer stem cell; hedgehog; mammary stem cell; notch; Wnt
Epigenetic mechanisms play critical roles in stem cell biology by maintaining pluripotency of stem cells and promoting differentiation of more mature derivatives. If similar mechanisms are relevant for the cancer stem cell (CSC) model, then epigenetic modulation might enrich the CSC population, thereby facilitating CSC isolation and rigorous evaluation. To test this hypothesis, primary human cancer cells and liver cancer cell lines were treated with zebularine (ZEB), a potent DNA-methyltransferase1-inhibitor and putative CSCs were isolated by the Side Population (SP) approach. The CSC properties of ZEB-treated and untreated subpopulations were tested by standard in vitro and in vivo assays. Whole transcriptome profiling of isolated CSC was performed to generate CSC signatures. Clinical relevance of the CSC signatures was evaluated in diverse primary human cancers. Epigenetic modulation increased frequency of cells with CSC properties in the SP fraction isolated from human cancer cells as judged by self-renewal, superior tumor-initiating capacity in serial transplantations and direct cell tracking experiments. Integrative transcriptome analysis revealed common traits enriched for stemness-associated genes, although each individual CSC gene expression signature exhibited activation of different oncogenic pathways (e.g. EGFR, SRC and MYC). The common CSC signature was associated with malignant progression, enriched in poorly differentiated tumors and was highly predictive of prognosis in liver and other cancers patients.
Epigenetic modulation may provide a tool for prospective isolation and in-depth analysis of CSC. The liver CSC gene signatures are defined by a pernicious interaction of unique oncogene-specific and common stemness traits. These data should facilitate the identifications of therapeutic tools targeting both unique and common features of CSC.
Cancer Stem Cells; Liver Cancer; Side-population; Epigenetics
The cancer stem cell hypothesis posits that tumor growth is driven by a rare subpopulation of cells, designated cancer stem cells (CSC). Studies supporting this theory are based in large part on xenotransplantation experiments wherein human cancer cells are grown in immunocompromised mice and only CSC, often constituting less than 1% of the malignancy, generate tumors. Herein, we show that all colonies derived from randomly chosen single cells in mouse lung and breast cancer cell lines form tumors following allografting histocompatible mice. Our study suggests that the majority of malignant cells rather than CSC can sustain tumors and that the cancer stem cell theory must be reevaluated.
Recent experimental evidence indicates that many solid cancers have a hierarchical organization structure with a subpopulation of cancer stem cells (CSCs). The ability to identify CSCs prospectively now allows for testing the responses of CSCs to treatment modalities like radiation therapy. Initial studies have found CSCs in glioma and breast cancer relatively resistant to ionizing radiation and possible mechanisms behind this resistance have been explored. This review summarizes the landmark publications in this young field with an emphasis on the radiation responses of CSCs. The existence of CSCs in solid cancers place restrictions on the interpretation of many radiobiological observations, while explaining others. The fact that these cells may be a relatively quiescent subpopulation that are metabolically distinct from the other cells in the tumor has implications for both imaging and therapy of cancer. This is particularly true for biological targeting of cancer for enhanced radiotherapeutic benefit, which must consider whether the unique properties of this subpopulation allow it to avoid such therapies.
cancer stem cells; cancer initiating cells; radiation biology
Pharmacogenomics in oncology holds the promise to personalize cancer therapy. However, its clinical application is still limited to a few genes, and, in the large majority of cancers, the correlation between genotype and clinical outcome has been disappointing. One possible explanation is that current pharmacogenomic studies do not take into account the emerging role of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in drug sensitivity and resistance. CSCs are a subpopulation of cells driven by specific signal-transduction pathways, but genetic variants affecting their activity are generally neglected in current pharmacogenomic studies. Moreover, in several malignancies, CSCs represent a rare sub-population; therefore, whole tumor profiling might mask CSC gene expression patterns. This article reviews current evidence on CSC chemoresistance and shows how common genetic variations in CSC-related genes may predict individual response to anti-cancer agents. Furthermore, we provide insights into the design of pharmacogenomic studies to address the clinical usefulness of CSC genetic profiling.
The cancer stem cell (CSC) concept is a highly debated topic in cancer research.
While experimental evidence in favor of the cancer stem cell theory is
apparently abundant, the results are often criticized as being difficult to
interpret. An important reason for this is that most experimental data that
support this model rely on transplantation studies. In this study we use a novel
cellular Potts model to elucidate the dynamics of established malignancies that
are driven by a small subset of CSCs. Our results demonstrate that epigenetic
mutations that occur during mitosis display highly altered dynamics in
CSC-driven malignancies compared to a classical, non-hierarchical model of
growth. In particular, the heterogeneity observed in CSC-driven tumors is
considerably higher. We speculate that this feature could be used in combination
with epigenetic (methylation) sequencing studies of human malignancies to prove
or refute the CSC hypothesis in established tumors without the need for
transplantation. Moreover our tumor growth simulations indicate that CSC-driven
tumors display evolutionary features that can be considered beneficial during
tumor progression. Besides an increased heterogeneity they also exhibit
properties that allow the escape of clones from local fitness peaks. This leads
to more aggressive phenotypes in the long run and makes the neoplasm more
adaptable to stringent selective forces such as cancer treatment. Indeed when
therapy is applied the clone landscape of the regrown tumor is more aggressive
with respect to the primary tumor, whereas the classical model demonstrated
similar patterns before and after therapy. Understanding these often
counter-intuitive fundamental properties of (non-)hierarchically organized
malignancies is a crucial step in validating the CSC concept as well as
providing insight into the therapeutical consequences of this model.
Cancer is in essence a genetic disease that leads to uncontrolled cell
proliferation, invasion and metastasis. The cancer stem cell (CSC) hypothesis
states that tumors are not just a mass of uniform malignant cells but they are
hierarchically organized, like normal tissues. At the top of such a hierarchy
are cancer stem cells that fuel tumor growth in the long run, whereas the
majority of other cells are able to divide only a few times. The experiments
that support the CSC hypothesis are often criticized as being difficult to
interpret. A novel approach to test the CSC paradigm is to integrate
mathematical modeling with DNA variation data that carry the phylogenetic
history of cells. We have developed a model that simulates the occurrence of
such changes under both the CSC hypothesis and the classical, purely stochastic
scenario. We found that although a CSC-driven tumor has a smaller number of
tumorigenic cells, it triggers more malignant properties such as invasive
growth, heterogeneity and evolutionary escape from peaks in the fitness
landscape. These properties, that are unique to the CSC model, are enhanced even
further when a treatment is applied to the tumor.
Recently, the hypothesis that colorectal tumors originate from a subpopulation of cells called ‘cancer stem cells' (CSCs) or tumor-initiating cells, which exhibit stem-like features, has been confirmed experimentally in various human cancers. Several studies have confirmed the existence of colorectal CSCs (CRCSCs) and have demonstrated that this rare cell population can be isolated by the expression of specific cell surface biomarkers. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a class of small non-coding RNAs, which are crucial for post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression and participate in a wide variety of biological functions, including development, cell proliferation, differentiation, metabolism and signal transduction. Moreover, new evidences suggest that miRNAs could contribute to preserve stemness of embryonic stem cells and could be involved in maintaining stemness of CSCs. Recent studies have begun to outline the role of miRNAs in regulation of CRCSCs. This review aims to summarize the recent advancement about the roles of miRNAs in CRCSCs that may represent a step forward in understanding the molecular mechanisms and the possible approaches for colorectal cancer therapy.
microRNAs; CSCs; CRC; stemness
There is substantial evidence that many human cancers are driven by a subpopulation of cells that display stem cell properties. These cancer stem cells (CSCs) may also contribute to metastasis and treatment resistance. Furthermore, just as normal stem cells are regulated by their microenvironment or “niche”, CSCs interact with and in turn are regulated by cells in the tumor microenvironment. These interactions involve inflammatory cytokines including IL-1, IL-6 and IL-8, which in turn activate Stat3/NF-κB pathways in both tumor and stromal cells. Activation of these pathways stimulates further cytokine production generating positive feedback loops which in turn drives CSC self-renewal. These cytokine loops and the pathways they regulate resemble those activated during chronic inflammation and wound healing and may contribute to the known link between inflammation and cancer. Inhibitors of these cytokines and their receptors have been developed as anti-inflammatory agents. By blocking signals from the tumor microenvironment, these agents have the potential to target CSCs. Future clinical trials utilizing these compounds will be needed to determine whether targeting the CSC population has clinical benefit.
An increasing number of malignancies has been shown to be initiated and propelled by small subpopulations of cancer stem cells (CSC). However, whether tumor aggressiveness is driven by CSC and by what extent this property may be relevant within the tumor mass is still unsettled. To address this issue, we isolated a rare tumor cell population on the basis of its CD44+CD24− phenotype from the human androgen-independent prostate carcinoma cell line DU145 and established its CSC properties. The behavior of selected CSC was investigated with respect to the bulk DU145 cells. The injection of CSC in nude mice generated highly vascularized tumors infiltrating the adjacent tissues, showing high density of neuroendocrine cells and expressing low levels of E-cadherin and β-catenin as well as high levels of vimentin. On the contrary, when a comparable number of unsorted DU145 cells were injected the resulting tumors were less aggressive. To investigate the different features of tumors in vivo, the influence of differentiated tumor cells on CSC was examined in vitro by growing CSC in the absence or presence of conditioned medium from DU145 cells. CSC grown in permissive conditions differentiated into cell populations with features similar to those of cells held in aggressive tumors generated from CSC injection. Differently, conditioned medium induced CSC to differentiate into a cell phenotype comparable to cells of scarcely aggressive tumors originated from bulk DU145 cell injection. These findings show for the first time that CSC are able to generate differentiated cells expressing either highly or scarcely aggressive phenotype, thus influencing prostate cancer progression. The fate of CSC was determined by signals released from tumor environment. Moreover, using microarray analysis we selected some molecules which could be involved in this cell-to-cell signaling, hypothesizing their potential value for prognostic or therapeutic applications.
Tumor initiating or cancer stem cells (CSCs) are suggested to be responsible for tumor initiation and growth. Moreover, therapy resistance and minimal residual disease are thought to result from selective resistance of CSCs. Isolation of CSCs from colon carcinomas can be accomplished by selection of a subpopulation of tumor cells based on expression of one or multiple cell surface markers associated with cancer stemness, like CD133, CD44, CD24, CD29, CD166 and Lgr5. Identification of colon CSCs will lead to a better rational for new therapies that aim to target this fraction specifically. In this review, we analyze known markers used for selection of colon CSCs and their potential function in CSC biology. Moreover, we discuss potential targeting strategies for eradicating CSCs specifically in order to develop more effective therapeutic strategies as well as to address more fundamental questions like the actual role of CSCs in tumor growth.
colon cancer stem cells; markers; targeting
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are thought to be a source of tumor recurrence due to their stem cell-like properties. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) regulate both normal stem cells and CSCs, and dysregulation of miRNAs has an important role in tumorigenesis. Cluster of differentiation (CD) 133+ and spheroid formation have been reported to be one of the main features of ovarian CSCs. Therefore, we determined the miRNA expression profile of a CD133+ spheroid-forming subpopulation of the OVCAR3 human ovarian cancer cell line.
Initially, we confirmed the enrichment of the OVCAR3 CD133 subpopulation by evaluating in vitro anchorage-independent growth. After obtaining a subpopulation of CD133+ OVCAR3 cells with > 98% purity via cell sorting, miRNA microarray and real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) were performed to evaluate its miRNA profile.
We found 37 differentially expressed miRNAs in the CD133+ spheroid-forming subpopulation of OVCAR3 cells, 34 of which were significantly up-regulated, including miR-205, miR-146a, miR-200a, miR-200b, and miR-3, and 3 of which were significantly down-regulated, including miR-1202 and miR-1181.
Our results indicate that dysregulation of miRNA may play a role in the stem cell-like properties of ovarian CSCs.
MicroRNA; Cancer stem cell; Ovarian cancer; CD133; OVCAR3; Chemoresistance
Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death. Understanding lung tumors physiopathology should provide opportunity to prevent tumor development or/and improve their therapeutic management. Cancer stem cell (CSC) theory refers to a subpopulation of cancer cells, also named tumor-initiating cells, that can drive cancer development. Cells presenting these characteristics have been identified and isolated from lung cancer. Exploring cell markers and signaling pathways specific to lung CSCs may lead to progress in therapy and improve the prognosis of patients with lung cancer. Continuous efforts in developing in vitro and in vivo models may yield reliable tools to better understand CSC abilities and to test new therapeutic targets. Preclinical data on putative CSC targets are emerging by now. These preliminary studies are critical for the next generation of lung cancer therapies.
Development of metastasis is a leading cause of cancer-induced death. Acquisition of an invasive tumor cell phenotype suggests loss of cell adhesion and basement membrane breakdown during a process termed epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Recently, cancer stem cells (CSC) were discovered to mediate solid tumor initiation and progression. Prostate CSCs are a subpopulation of CD44+ cells within the tumor that give rise to differentiated tumor cells and also self-renew. Using both primary and established prostate cancer cell lines, we tested the assumption that CSCs are more invasive. The ability of unsorted cells and CD44-positve and -negative subpopulations to undergo Matrigel invasion and EMT was evaluated, and the gene expression profiles of these cells were analyzed by microarray and a subset confirmed using QRT-PCR. Our data reveal that a subpopulation of CD44+ CSC-like cells invade Matrigel through EMT, while in contrast, CD44- cells are non-invasive. Furthermore, the genomic profile of the invasive cells closely resembles that of CD44+CD24- prostate CSCs and shows evidence for increased Hedgehog signaling. Finally, invasive cells from DU145 and primary prostate cancer cells are more tumorigenic in NOD/SCID mice compared with non-invasive cells. Our data strongly suggest that basement membrane invasion, an early and necessary step in metastasis development, is mediated by these potential cancer stem cells.
cancer stem cells; metastasis; invasion; EMT; prostate cancer; hedgehog
Cancer stem cells (CSCs), or cancer cells with stem cell properties, have been reported in many human tumors and are thought to be responsible for tumor initiation, therapy resistance, progression, relapse, and metastasis. Despite their potential clinical importance, how CSCs are regulated at the molecular level is not well understood. MicroRNAs (miRNAs), small non-coding RNAs that play critical roles in normal stem cell functions during development, have emerged as important regulators of CSCs as well. In this review, we summarize the current major findings of miRNA regulation of various CSCs and discuss our recent findings that miR-34a suppresses prostate CSCs and metastasis by directly repressing CD44. These recent progresses have important implications for understanding how CSCs are intricately regulated by networks of miRNAs and for developing novel mechanism-based miRNA therapeutics that specifically targets CSCs.
miRNA; cancer stem cells; microRNA; let-7; miR-200; miR-34
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been identified in hematopoietic and solid tumors. However, their precursors—namely, precancerous stem cells (pCSCs) —have not been characterized. Here we experimentally define the pCSCs that have the potential for both benign and malignant differentiation, depending on environmental cues. While clonal pCSCs can develop into various types of tissue cells in immunocompetent mice without developing into cancer, they often develop, however, into leukemic or solid cancers composed of various types of cancer cells in immunodeficient mice. The progress of the pCSCs to cancers is associated with the up-regulation of c-kit and Sca-1, as well as with lineage markers. Mechanistically, the pCSCs are regulated by the PIWI/AGO family gene called piwil2. Our results provide clear evidence that a single clone of pCSCs has the potential for both benign and malignant differentiation, depending on the environmental cues. We anticipate pCSCs to be a novel target for the early detection, prevention, and therapy of cancers.
Malignant Pleural Effusions (MPE) may be useful as a model to study hierarchical progression of cancer and/or intratumoral heterogeneity. To strengthen the rationale for developing the MPE-model for these purposes, we set out to find evidence for the presence of cancer stem cells (CSC) in MPE and demonstrate an ability to sustain intratumoral heterogeneity in MPE-primary cultures. Our studies show that candidate lung CSC-expression signatures (PTEN, OCT4, hTERT, Bmi1, EZH2 and SUZ12) are evident in cell pellets isolated from MPE, and MPE-cytopathology also labels candidate-CSC (CD44, cMET, MDR-1, ALDH) subpopulations. Moreover, in primary cultures that use MPE as the source of both tumor cells and the tumor microenvironment (TME), candidate CSC are maintained over time. This allows us to live-sort candidate CSC-fractions from the MPE-tumor mix on the basis of surface markers (CD44, c-MET, uPAR, MDR-1) or differences in xenobiotic metabolism (ALDH). Thus, MPE-primary cultures provide an avenue to extract candidate CSC populations from individual (isogenic) MPE-tumors. This will allow us to test whether these cells can be discriminated in functional bioassays. Tumor heterogeneity in MPE-primary cultures is evidenced by variable immunolabeling, differences in colony-morphology, and differences in proliferation rates of cell subpopulations. Collectively, these data justify the ongoing development of the MPE-model for the investigation of intratumoral heterogeneity, tumor-TME interactions, and phenotypic validation of candidate lung CSC, in addition to providing direction for the pre-clinical development of rational therapeutics.
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) represent a subpopulation of tumor cells that possess self-renewal and tumor initiation capacity and the ability to give rise to the heterogenous lineages of malignant cells that comprise a tumor. CSCs possess multiple intrinsic mechanisms of resistance to chemotherapeutic drugs, novel tumor-targeted drugs, and radiation therapy, allowing them to survive standard cancer therapies and to initiate tumor recurrence and metastasis. Various molecular complexes and pathways that confer resistance and survival of CSCs, including expression of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) drug transporters, activation of the Wnt/β-catenin, Hedgehog, Notch and PI3K/Akt/mTOR signaling pathways, and acquisition of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), have been identified recently. Salinomycin, a polyether ionophore antibiotic isolated from Streptomyces albus, has been shown to kill CSCs in different types of human cancers, most likely by interfering with ABC drug transporters, the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, and other CSC pathways. Promising results from preclinical trials in human xenograft mice and a few clinical pilote studies reveal that salinomycin is able to effectively eliminate CSCs and to induce partial clinical regression of heavily pretreated and therapy-resistant cancers. The ability of salinomycin to kill both CSCs and therapy-resistant cancer cells may define the compound as a novel and an effective anticancer drug.
The cellular heterogeneity of neoplasms has been at the center of considerable interest since the “cancer stem cell hypothesis”, originally formulated for hematologic malignancies, was extended to solid tumors. The origins of cancer “stem” cells (CSCs) or tumor-initiating cells (TICs) (henceforth referred to as CSCs) and the methods to identify them are hotly debated topics. Nevertheless, the existence of sub-populations of tumor cells with stem-like characteristics has significant therapeutic implications. The stem-like phenotype includes indefinite self-replication, pluripotency and, importantly, resistance to chemotherapeutics. Thus, it is plausible that CSC, regardless of their origin, may escape standard therapies and cause disease recurrences and/or metastasis after apparently complete remissions. Consequently, the idea of selectively targeting CSCs with novel therapeutics is gaining considerable interest. The Notch pathway is one of the most intensively studied putative therapeutic targets in CSC, and several investigational Notch inhibitors are being developed. However, successful targeting of Notch signaling in CSC will require a thorough understanding of Notch regulation and the context-dependent interactions between Notch and other therapeutically relevant pathways. Understanding these interactions will increase our ability to design rational combination regimens that are more likely to prove safe and effective. Additionally, to determine which patients are most likely to benefit from treatment with Notch-targeting therapeutics, reliable biomarkers to measure pathway activity in CSC from specific tumors will have to be identified and validated. This article summarizes the most recent developments in the field of Notch-targeted cancer therapeutics, with emphasis on CSC.
Purpose of review
Recently, the prospective isolation and characterization of cancer stem cells (CSCs) from various human malignancies revealed that they are resistant to radiation and chemotherapies. Therefore, CSCs may be the “roots” and ideal target for therapeutic intervention. Here, we will focus on reviewing the historical perspective, recent literatures on bladder cancer stem cells and their clinical implications.
Cancer stem cells have been prospectively isolated from bladder cancer tissues from patient specimens, established cancer cell lines and xenografts, based on the expression of a combination of cell surface receptors, cytokeratin markers, drug transporters and the efficient efflux of the Hoechst 33342 dye (side population). Further, global gene expression profiling of CSCs revealed an activated gene-signature of CSCs similar to that of aggressive bladder cancer, supporting the concept that a tumor cell subpopulation is contributing to bladder cancer progression. Finally, our studies on the preclinical targeting of bladder CSCs in vitro and in xenografts using a blocking antibody for CD47 reveal promising efficacy.
Functionally distinct CSCs exist in human bladder cancer and can be prospectively isolated. Continuing research will be important to identify their cell of origin, programs balancing self-renewal and differentiation, and to identify additional therapeutic options to target bladder CSCs.
Bladder cancer; cancer stem cells; basal cells; therapeutic targeting; CD47
The cancer stem cell (CSC) model posits the presence of a small number of CSCs in the heterogeneous cancer cell population that are ultimately responsible for tumor initiation, as well as cancer recurrence and metastasis. CSCs have been isolated from a variety of human cancers and are able to generate a hierarchical and heterogeneous cancer cell population. CSCs are also resistant to conventional chemo- and radio-therapies. Here we report that ionizing radiation can induce stem cell-like properties in heterogeneous cancer cells. Exposure of non-stem cancer cells to ionizing radiation enhanced spherogenesis, and this was accompanied by upregulation of the pluripotency genes Sox2 and Oct3/4. Knockdown of Sox2 or Oct3/4 inhibited radiation–induced spherogenesis and increased cellular sensitivity to radiation. These data demonstrate that ionizing radiation can activate stemness pathways in heterogeneous cancer cells, resulting in the enrichment of a CSC subpopulation with higher resistance to radiotherapy.
Emerging evidence points to the existence of pancreatic cancer stem cells (CSC) as the culprit in the initiation, maintenance, metastasis, and treatment resistance of pancreatic cancer. The existence of such a cell population would have an important impact on the design of novel therapies against this devastating disease. However, no in vivo validation or rebuttal of the pancreatic CSC hypothesis exists. Major backlashes in the discussion on CSC are firstly, the confusion between the terms CSC and cell of origin of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), secondly the ambiguity of the cell of origin itself and thirdly, the fact that the CSC hypothesis is based on cell sorting and xenografting experiments; the latter of which often precludes solid conclusions because of the lack of a natural microenvironment and differences in drug delivery. Nonetheless, recent studies in other cancers partially support the CSC hypothesis by demonstrating a link between epithelial-to-mesenchymal transdifferentiation/transition (EMT) and CSC properties. Such a link is again open to dispute as EMT is a reversible process which is highly dependent on major oncogenic pathways in PDAC [e.g. K-Ras, transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β)] rather than on presumed cancer stem cell pathways. Hence, the available evidence does not robustly support the CSC concept in PDAC and a thorough validation of this hypothesis in well-defined genetically engineered mouse models of pancreatic cancer is required.
Pancreatic cancer; Cancer stem cell; Tumor initiating cells; Mouse models
Cancerous stem-like cells (CSCs) have been implicated as cancer-initiating cells in a range of malignant tumours. Diverse genetic programs regulate CSC behaviours, and CSCs from glioblastoma patients are qualitatively distinct from each other. The intrinsic connection between the presence of CSCs and malignancy is unclear. We set out to test whether tumour stem-like cells can be identified from benign tumours.
Tumour sphere cultures were derived from hormone-positive and -negative pituitary adenomas. Characterisation of tumour stem-like cells in vitro was performed using self-renewal assays, stem cell-associated marker expression analysis, differentiation, and stimulated hormone production assays. The tumour-initiating capability of these tumour stem-like cells was tested in serial brain tumour transplantation experiments using SCID mice.
In this study, we isolated sphere-forming, self-renewable, and multipotent stem-like cells from pituitary adenomas, which are benign tumours. We found that pituitary adenoma stem-like cells (PASCs), compared with their differentiated daughter cells, expressed increased levels of stem cell-associated gene products, antiapoptotic proteins, and pituitary progenitor cell markers. Similar to CSCs isolated from glioblastomas, PASCs are more resistant to chemotherapeutics than their differentiated daughter cells. Furthermore, differentiated PASCs responded to stimulation with hypothalamic hormones and produced corresponding pituitary hormones that are reflective of the phenotypes of the primary pituitary tumours. Finally, we demonstrated that PASCs are pituitary tumour-initiating cells in serial transplantation animal experiments.
This study for the first time indicates that stem-like cells are present in benign tumours. The conclusions from this study may have applications to understanding pituitary tumour biology and therapies, as well as implications for the notion of tumour-initiating cells in general.
pituitary adenomas; tumour stem cells; growth hormone; benign tumours