Breast tumor heterogeneity: cancer stem cells or clonal evolution?

Cell Cycle. 2007 Oct 1;6(19):2332-8. doi: 10.4161/cc.6.19.4914. Epub 2007 Aug 17.


Breast tumors are composed of a variety of cell types with distinct morphologies and behaviors. It is not clear how this tumor heterogeneity comes about. Two popular concepts that attempt to explain this are the cancer stem cell hypothesis and the clonal evolution model. Each of these ideas has been investigated for some time, leading to the accumulation of numerous findings that are used to support one or the other. Although the two views share some similarities, they are fundamentally different notions with very different clinical implications. Analysis of the research backing each concept, along with a review of the results of our recent study investigating putative breast cancer stem cells, suggests how the cancer stem cell hypothesis and the clonal evolution model may be involved in generating breast tumor heterogeneity. An understanding of this process will allow the development of more effective ways to treat and prevent breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Clone Cells
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / physiology*


  • Antigens, CD