Lung cancer and lung stem cells: strange bedfellows?

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2007 Mar 15;175(6):547-53. doi: 10.1164/rccm.200607-984PP. Epub 2006 Dec 7.


Lung cancer is a significant disease with survival rates remaining poor despite numerous therapeutic advances during the last 30 years. Understanding lung cancer pathogenesis through murine modeling may improve future human therapies, and new data indicate that mutations within different endogenous stem cells situated throughout airways can drive cancer formation. Airway stem cells maintain prototumorigenic characteristics, including high proliferative capacity, multipotent differentiation, and a long lifespan relative to other cells. These cells localize to proximal airway submucosal glands/intercartilagenous rings, neuroepithelial bodies, and terminal bronchioles/bronchoalveolar duct junctions. Recent studies suggest that endogenous stem cell signaling and differentiation pathways are maintained within distinct cancer types, and that destabilization of this signaling machinery may initiate region-specific lung cancers. A better understanding of this relationship among stem cell regulation, cellular mutation, and lung cancer oncogenesis is critical for developing the next wave of lung cancer therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cells / pathology*