Stem-cell origin of metastasis and heterogeneity in solid tumours

Lancet Oncol. 2002 Aug;3(8):508-13. doi: 10.1016/s1470-2045(02)00820-3.


An explanation for the inherently metastatic and heterogeneous nature of cancers may be their derivation from distinct stem cells. The type of stem cell from which a neoplasm arises determines both the metastatic potential and the phenotypic diversity of that neoplasm. Hence, tumours originating from an early stem cell or its progenitor cells metastasise readily and have a more heterogeneous phenotype, whereas tumours originating from a later stem cell or its progenitor cells have limited metastatic potential and a more homogeneous phenotype. Further investigation of the role of stem cells in the development of cancer may lead to the discovery of novel diagnostic tools, prognostic markers, and therapeutic targets in the battle against cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis
  • Genetic Predisposition to Disease*
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Phenotype
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Biomarkers, Tumor