The dissemination of tumour cells is the prerequisite of metastases and is correlated with a loss of epithelial differentiation and the acquisition of a migratory phenotype, a hallmark of malignant tumour progression. A stepwise, irreversible accumulation of genetic alterations is considered to be the responsible driving force. But strikingly, metastases of most carcinomas recapitulate the organization of their primary tumours. Although current models explain distinct and important aspects of carcinogenesis, each alone can not explain the sum of the cellular changes apparent in human cancer progression. We suggest an extended, integrated model that is consistent with all aspects of human tumour progression - the 'migrating cancer stem (MCS)-cell' concept.