Cancer: A Stem Cell-based Disease?

  • James E. TroskoEmail author


To understand the complex origin of human cancer, one cannot ignore the adage, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution [1]. In view of the fact that current understanding of carcinogenesis involves genetic, developmental, gender, dietary, nutritional-caloric restriction, environmental, life style, and cultural factors, what seems to be missing is not the amassing of more facts but a unifying conceptual framework to integrate all of these factors. (“…those researching the cancer problem will be practicing a dramatically different type of science than we have experienced over the past 25 years. Surely much of this change will be apparent at the technical level. But ultimately, the more fundamental change will be conceptual [2].”) The major concept presented in this review is that carcinogenesis involves the reversible alteration of an embryonic stem cell’s ability to divide asymmetrically will lead to teratomas, whereas the stable irreversible alteration of an adult stem cell’s ability to proliferate asymmetrically will lead carcinomas and sarcomas. An attempt will be made to integrate the (a) multi-stage/multi-mechanism hypothesis; (b) mutation/epigenetic theories, (c) stem cell /de-differentiation or “re-programming” hypotheses; (d) genetic and environmental interaction hypothesis of carcinogenesis; (e) oncogene/tumor suppressor theories; and (f) the homeostatic cell communication mechanisms with the stem cell hypothesis of carcinogenesis and with the biological and cultural evolutionary theories of carcinogenesis.


Cancer stem cells Adult stem cells Re-programming Barker hypothesis Gap junctional intercellular communication Evolution and cancer Epigenetics Side-population cells Immortalizing viruses 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Pediatrics/Human DevelopmentCollege of Human Medicine, Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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