Exploiting the convergence of embryonic and tumorigenic signaling pathways to develop new therapeutic targets

Stem Cell Rev. 2007 Jan;3(1):68-78. doi: 10.1007/s12015-007-0010-x.


As our understanding of embryonic stem cell biology becomes more sophisticated, the similarities between multipotent cancer cells and these totipotent precursors are increasingly striking. Both multipotent cancer cells and embryonic stem cells possess the ability to self-renew, epigenetically alter their neighboring cellular architecture, and populate a tissue mass with a phenotypically heterogeneous composition of cells. While the molecular signature of these cell types continues to be elucidated, new insights are emerging related to the convergence of embryonic and tumorigenic signaling pathways. Understanding the molecular underpinnings of these two stem cell phenotypes may lead to new therapeutic targets for the elusive cancer cell. While still in its infancy, the potential of adapting embryonic stem cells, and more specifically the factors they produce, is enormous for clinical application. Here we outline evidence that demonstrates the inductive influence of embryonic stem cells and their microenvironment to reprogram cancer cells to exhibit a more benign phenotype, with profound implications for differentiation therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cellular Reprogramming / physiology
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian
  • Embryonic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Gene Targeting
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Zebrafish