Pancreatic Cancer Stem Cells

  • Chenwei Li
  • Diane M. Simeone
Reference work entry


The concept of cancer stem cells was first proposed 150 years ago and recent studies have demonstrated the existence of cancer stem cells that have the exclusive capacity for tumor initiation and propagation. Emerging data has been provided to support the existence of cancer stem cells in human blood cell-derived cancers and solid organ tumors of the breast, prostate, brain, pancreas, head and neck, skin, and colon. Furthermore, pathways that regulate self-renewal, such as Bmi-1, Wnt, PTEN, Notch and Hedgehog which are known to regulate self-renewal of normal stem cells, have been implicated in the regulation of cancer stem cell self-renewal in a number of different tumor types. The study of human pancreatic cancers has revealed a unique subpopulation of cancer cells that possess the all characteristics of cancer stem cells. The pancreatic cancer stem cells express the cell surface markers CD44, CD24, and epithelial-specific antigen (ESA), and represent 0.5–1.0% of the total pancreatic cancer cell population. Along with the characteristics of self-renewal and multilineage differentiation, pancreatic cancer stem cells display upregulation of Sonic hedgehog (SHH) and Bmi-1. Aberrant activation of these pathways in cancer stem cells are believed to be responsible for uncontrolled self-renewal of cancer stem cells which generate tumors that are resistant to radiation and chemotherapy. Conventional cancer therapeutics eliminate differentiated tumor cells, but do not target the cancer stem cells. The cancer stem cell concept points to a new direction of cancer therapeutics, which targets cancer stem cells. Pancreatic cancer stem cell research will aid our understanding of the molecular and cellular events leading to the development of pancreatic cancer and may change the therapeutic approach to the treatment of pancreatic cancer.


Pancreatic Cancer Cancer Stem Cell Pancreatic Cancer Cell Hedgehog Signaling Normal Stem Cell 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departments of Surgery and Molecular and Integrative PhysiologyUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

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