Cancer Stem Cells

Part of the Updates in Surgery book series (UPDATESSURG, volume 0)


Far from being a new concept, the belief that cancer might originate from stem cells dates back to the mid-19th century when Rudolf Virchow proposed that cancer arises from embryo-like cells, based on the histologic similarity between embryonic and cancer tissues. This hypothesis was later extended by Cohnheim and Durante, who postulated that adult tissues contain embryonic remnants that usually lie dormant, but can be activated to give rise to a tumor. This original view, formerly referred to as the embryonic rest theory, has been updated with the cancer stem cell hypothesis, according to which a vicious stem cell-like subpopulation generates a tumor through the deregulation of the self-renewal process. However, the proof-of-concept was provided more than a century later with the identification of leukemiainitiating stem cells in the peripheral blood of acute myeloid leukemia patients [1]. Ever since, the cancer stem cell theory has gained identity and different tissue-specific cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been isolated from both big killers, and rare cancers. These studies were based on a similar experimental approach, which combined fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS analysis) of primary tumor cells with antibodies against specific cell-surface markers and serial orthotropic transplantation into immunocompromised mice. Although different operational definitions of CSCs have been proposed, four properties are in general adopted to define them: (i) expression of a distinctive repertoire of cell surface markers for isolation and purification; (ii) formation of tumorspheres in suspension culture; (iii) tumorigenic capacity in immunocompromised mice, as opposed to all other cellular subsets; and (iv) generation of a heterogeneous cancer tissue closely resembling the original


Androgen Receptor Cancer Stem Cell Colonic Stem Cell Cancer Stem Cell Theory 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Italia 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Surgical SciencesSapienza University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Hematology, Oncology and Molecular MedicineIstituto Superiore di SanitàRomeItaly

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