Both stem cells and cancer cells are thought to be capable of unlimited proliferation. Paradoxically, however, some cancers seem to contain stem-like cells (cancer stem cells). To help resolve this paradox, we investigated whether established malignant cell lines, which have been maintained over years in culture, contain a subpopulation of stem cells. We have shown that four cancer cell lines contain a small side population (SP), which, in many normal tissues, is enriched for stem cells of the tissue. We have also shown that SP cells in C6 glioma cell line, but not non-SP cells, can generate both SP and non-SP cells in culture and are largely responsible for the in vivo malignancy of this cell line. We propose that many cancer cell lines contain a minor subpopulation of stem cells that is enriched in a SP, can be maintained indefinitely in culture, and is crucial for their malignancy.