eISSN: 1897-4309
ISSN: 1428-2526
Contemporary Oncology/Współczesna Onkologia
Current issue Archive Contemporary Oncology

Regulation of breast cancer stem cell features

Patrycja Czerwinska, Bozena Kaminska

Contemp Oncol (Pozn) 2015; 19 (1A): A7–A15
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are rare, tumour-initiating cells that exhibit stem cell properties: capacity of self-renewal, pluripotency, highly tumorigenic potential, and resistance to therapy. Cancer stem cells have been characterised and isolated from many cancers, including breast cancer. Developmental pathways, such as the Wnt/-catenin, Notch/-secretase/Jagged, Shh (sonic hedgehog), and BMP signalling pathways, which direct proliferation and differentiation of normal stem cells, have emerged as major signalling pathways that contribute to the self-renewal of stem and/or progenitor cells in a variety of organs and cancers. Deregulation of these signalling pathways is frequently linked to an epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and breast CSCs often possess properties of cells that have undergone the EMT process. Signalling networks mediated by microRNAs and EMT-inducing transcription factors tie the EMT process to regulatory networks that maintain “stemness”. Recent studies have elucidated epigenetic mechanisms that control pluripotency and stemness, which allows an assessment on how embryonic and normal tissue stem cells are deregulated during cancerogenesis to give rise to CSCs. Epigenetic-based mechanisms are reversible, and the possibility of “resetting” the abnormal cancer epigenome by applying pharmacological compounds targeting epigenetic enzymes is a promising new therapeutic strategy. Chemoresistance of CSCs is frequently driven by various mechanisms, including aberrant expression/activity of ABC transporters, aldehyde dehydrogenase and anti-oncogenic proteins (i.e. BCL2, B-cell lymphoma-2), enhanced DNA damage response, activation of pro-survival signalling pathways, and epigenetic deregulations. Despite controversy surrounding the CSC hypothesis, there is substantial evidence for their role in cancer, and a number of drugs intended to specifically target CSCs have entered clinical trials.

cancer stem cells, breast cancer, signalling pathways

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