Urothelial Carcinoma Stem Cells: Current Concepts, Controversies, and Methods
Cancer stem cells are defined as a self-renewing and self-protecting subpopulation of cancer cells able to differentiate into morphologically and functionally diverse cancer cells with a limited lifespan. To purify cancer stem cells, two basic approaches can be applied, the marker-based approach employing various more of less-specific cell surface marker molecules and a marker-free approach largely based on various self-protection mechanisms. Within the context of urothelial carcinoma, both methods could find use. The cell surface markers have been mainly derived from the urothelial basal cell, a probable cell of origin of muscle-invasive urothelial carcinoma, with CD14, CD44, CD90, and 67LR representing successful examples of this strategy. The marker-free approaches involve side population sorting, for which a detailed protocol is provided, as well as the Aldefluor assay, which rely on a specific overexpression of efflux pumps or the detoxification enzyme aldehyde dehydrogenase, respectively, in stem cells. These assays have been applied to both non-muscle-invasive and muscle-invasive bladder cancer samples and cell lines. Urothelial carcinoma stem cells feature a pronounced heterogeneity as to their molecular stemness mechanisms. Several aspects of urothelial cancer stem cell biology could enter translational development rather soon, e.g., a specific CD44+-derived gene expression signature able to identify non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer patients with a high risk of progression, or deciphering a mechanism responsible for repopulating activity of urothelial carcinoma stem cells within the context of therapeutic resistance.
Key wordsCancer stem cells Urothelial regeneration Urothelium stem cells Urothelial carcinoma Urothelial carcinoma cells of origin Urothelial carcinoma stem cell markers Side population Drug resistance
The work has been supported by the projects of Faculty of Medicine in Pilsen SVV-2016-260283 and SVV-2017-260393, and by JGW Patterson Foundation.
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