Recently, a subpopulation of cells highly efficient in tumor initiation and growth has been isolated from brain tumors. Of interest, these brain tumor initiating cells exhibit many stem-like properties, including self-renewal, extended proliferation, and multipotency, and are both phenotypically and genetically similar to normal neural stem cells (NSCs). Aberrant expression of developmental pathways, such as WNT, Hedgehog, Notch, and transforming growth factor-beta/bone morphogenetic protein, have been demonstrated in brain tumors, and extrinsic regulation of these pathways may be used to target brain tumor stem-like cells (BTSCs) and form the basis of novel biological therapies. Because of regulatory redundancy during normal development, future therapeutic strategies to inhibit BTSC-mediated tumor growth and minimize NSC-related deleterious effects may require detailed understanding and regulation of multiple cellular mechanisms. This review analyzes the role developmental pathways play in brain tumors, focusing on the potential effects of pathway regulation on BTSC-driven tumorigenesis.
2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc