Acta Med. 2008, 51: 139-144

Cancer Stem Cells – New Approach to Cancerogenensis and Treatment

Zuzana Mačingová, Stanislav Filip

Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Medicine and University Hospital Hradec Králové, Department of Oncology and Radiotherapy, Hradec Králové, Czech Republic

Received March 1, 2008
Accepted August 1, 2008

Recently, there is an increasing evidence supporting the theory of cancer stem cells not only in leukemia but also in solid cancer. To date, the existence of cancer stem cells has been proven in acute and chronic myeloid leukemia, in breast cancer, in brain tumors, in lung cancer and gastrointestinal tumors. This review is focusing on the recent discovery of stem cells in leukemia, human brain tumors and breast cancer. A small population of cells in the tumor (less than 1 %) shows the potential to give rise to the tumor and its growth. These cells have a substantial characteristic of stem cells – ability for self-renewal without loss of proliferation capacity with each cell division. Furthermore they are immortal, rather resistant to treatment and express typical markers of stem cells. The origin of these resident cancer stem cells is not clear. Whether the cancer stem cells originate from normal stem cells in consequence of genetic and epigenetic changes and/or redifferentiation from somatic tumor cells to the stem-like cells remains to be investigated. We propose the idea of the relation between normal tissue stem cells and cancer stem cells and their populations – progenitor cells. Based on this we highlight one of the major characteristic of stem cell – plasticity, which is equally important in the physiological regeneration process as well as carcinogenesis. Furthermore, we consider the microenvironment as a limiting factor for tumor genesis in AML, breast cancer and brain tumors. Thus the biological properties of cancer stem cells are just beginning to be revealed, the continuation of these studies should lead to the development of cancer stem cells target therapies for cancer treatment.


This work has been supported by Research project MZO 00179906 and MSM 0021620820 from the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport of the Czech Republic.


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