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Cancer stem cells: mirage or reality?


The similarities and differences between normal tissue stem cells and cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been the source of much contention, with some recent studies calling into question the very existence of CSCs. An examination of the literature indicates, however, that the CSC model rests on firm experimental foundations and that differences in the observed frequencies of CSCs within tumors reflect the various cancer types and hosts used to assay these cells. Studies of stem cells and the differentiation program termed the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) point to the possible existence of plasticity between stem cells and their more differentiated derivatives. If present, such plasticity would have major implications for the CSC model and for future therapeutic approaches.

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Figure 1: Stem-differentiation hierarchy.


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Correspondence to Robert A Weinberg.

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Gupta, P., Chaffer, C. & Weinberg, R. Cancer stem cells: mirage or reality?. Nat Med 15, 1010–1012 (2009).

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