Cancer Stem Cells and Targeting Strategies

Luisa Barbato, Marco Bocchetti, Anna Di Biase, Tarik Regad
Cells 2019 August 18, 8 (8)
Chemoresistance is a major problem in cancer therapy as cancer cells develop mechanisms that counteract the effect of chemotherapeutic compounds, leading to relapse and the development of more aggressive cancers that contribute to poor prognosis and survival rates of treated patients. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) play a key role in this event. Apart from their slow proliferative property, CSCs have developed a range of cellular processes that involve drug efflux, drug enzymatic inactivation and other mechanisms. In addition, the microenvironment where CSCs evolve (CSC niche), effectively contributes to their role in cancer initiation, progression and chemoresistance. In the CSC niche, immune cells, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), endothelial cells and cancer associated fibroblasts (CAFs) contribute to the maintenance of CSC malignancy via the secretion of factors that promote cancer progression and resistance to chemotherapy. Due to these factors that hinder successful cancer therapies, CSCs are a subject of intense research that aims at better understanding of CSC behaviour and at developing efficient targeting therapies. In this review, we provide an overview of cancer stem cells, their role in cancer initiation, progression and chemoresistance, and discuss the progress that has been made in the development of CSC targeted therapies.

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