Introduction to Cancer Stem Cells: Past, Present, and Future
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The Cancer Stem Cell (CSC) hypothesis postulates the existence of a small population of cancer cells with intrinsic properties allowing for resistance to conventional radiochemotherapy regiments and increased metastatic potential. Clinically, the aggressive nature of CSCs has been shown to correlate with increased tumor recurrence, metastatic spread, and overall poor patient outcome across multiple cancer subtypes. Traditionally, isolation of CSCs has been achieved through utilization of cell surface markers, while the functional differences between CSCs and remaining tumor cells have been described through proliferation, differentiation, and limiting dilution assays. The generated insights into CSC biology have further highlighted the importance of studying intratumoral heterogeneity through advanced functional assays, including CRISPR-Cas9 screens in the search of novel targeted therapies. In this chapter, we review the discovery and characterization of cancer stem cells populations within several major cancer subtypes, recent developments of novel assays used in studying therapy resistant tumor cells, as well as recent developments in therapies targeted at cancer stem cells.
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