Cancer is among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in the Western world. Despite recent advances, most therapeutic approaches fail to eradicate the entire neoplastic clone. The remaining cells often develop metastasis and/or recurrences and therefore may represent attractive targets of therapy. A new exciting concept in this regard suggests that each neoplasm represents a heterogeneous population of cells that pertain to long-term tumor growth both in vivo in the natural host and in experimental animals. This concept postulates the existence of small fractions of 'tumor stem cells' that exhibit a capacity for self-renewal and unlimited growth and therefore are distinct from their progeny. Based on these hypotheses, the targeting of neoplastic stem cells is considered indispensable for eradication of the entire clone and for the development of curative treatment approaches. However, tumor stem cells often may be quiescent cells and may express a different profile of targets compared with 'more mature' tumor cells. Therefore, current efforts have attempted to characterize target expression profiles in cancer stem cells in various malignancies. In the this review, the authors have provided a brief summary of the current knowledge of neoplastic stem cells and the application of respective concepts in translational oncology with the ultimate objective of improving anticancer therapy.