Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs) and Resistance to Traditional Therapies

CSCs are distinguished by their ability to form spherical colonies in vitro, their slow growth relative to other cells in the tumor bulk, their increased efflux potential, and dysregulation of multiple signaling pathways.1-3 Some of these characteristics contribute to CSCs being highly resistant to conventional chemo- and radiotherapy.4,5

An unintended result of treatment with chemotherapy or radiotherapy may be enrichment of the CSC fraction of a tumor.4,6

Current treatments for cancer have focused on non-stem cancer cells—the rapidly dividing cells in a tumor—and not on the CSC subpopulation. Emerging research suggests that targeting both of these subpopulations may be necessary to eliminate the entire cancer cell population. As the understanding of CSCs progresses, the identification of CSC-specific therapeutic agents may lead to advances in cancer treatments.5


  1. Chen W, Dong J, Haiech J, Kilhoffer M, Zeniou M. Cancer stem cell quiescence and plasticity as major challenges in cancer therapy. Stem Cells Int. 2016;2016:1740936. doi:10.1155/2016/1740936.
  2. Hamaï A, Codogno P, Mehrpour M. Cancer stem cells and autophagy: facts and perspectives. J Cancer Stem Cell Res. 2014;2(e1005):1-24.
  3. Chen K, Huang Y, Chen J. Understanding and targeting cancer stem cells: therapeutic implications and challenges. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2013;34(6):732-740.
  4. Li X, Lewis M, Huang J, et al. Intrinsic resistance of tumorigenic breast cancer cells to chemotherapy. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2008;100(9):672-679.
  5. Li Y, Rogoff H, Keates S, et al. Suppression of cancer relapse and metastasis by inhibiting cancer stemness. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2015;112(6):1839-1844.
  6. Lagadec C, Vlashi E, Della Donna L, Dekmezian C, Pajonk F. Radiation-induced reprogramming of breast cancer cells. Stem Cells. 2012;30(5):833-844.

Current Clinical Trials

Our ongoing studies in advanced cancers emphasize inhibition of cancer stem cell pathways.

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