Stem cell markers in gliomas

Paola Dell'Albani
Neurochemical Research 2008, 33 (12): 2407-15
Gliomas are the most common tumours of the central nervous system (CNS) and a frequent cause of mental impairment and death. Treatment of malignant gliomas is often palliative because of their infiltrating nature and high recurrence. Genetic events that lead to brain tumours are mostly unknown. A growing body of evidence suggests that gliomas may rise from cancer stem cells (CSC) sharing with neural stem cells (NSC) the capacity of cell renewal and multipotency. Accordingly, a population of cells called "side population" (SP), which has been isolated from gliomas on the basis of their ability to extrude fluorescent dyes, behaves as stem cells and is resistant to chemotherapeutic treatments. This review will focus on the expression of the stem cell markers nestin and CD133 in glioma cancer stem cells. In addition, the possible role of Platelet Derived Growth Factor receptor type alpha (PDGFR-alpha) and Notch signalling in normal development and tumourigenesis of gliomas are also discussed. Future work elucidating the mechanisms that control normal development will help to identify new cancer stem cell-related genes. The identification of important markers and the elucidation of signalling pathways involved in survival, proliferation and differentiation of CSCs appear to be fundamental for developing an effective therapy of brain tumours.

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