Cancer stem cells and brain tumors

Clin Transl Oncol. 2008 May;10(5):262-7. doi: 10.1007/s12094-008-0195-8.


Besides the role of normal stem cells in organogenesis, cancer stem cells are thought to be crucial for tumorigenesis. Most current research on human tumors is focused on molecular and cellular analysis of the bulk tumor mass. However, evidence in leukemia and, more recently, in solid tumors suggests that the tumor cell population is heterogeneous. In recent years, several groups have described the existence of a cancer stem cell population in different brain tumors. These neural cancer stem cells (NCSC) can be isolated by cell sorting of dissociated suspensions of tumor cells for the neural stem cell marker CD133. These CD133+ cells -which also express nestin, an intermediate filament that is another neural stem cell marker- represent a small fraction of the entire brain tumor population. The stem-like cancer cells appear to be solely responsible for propagating the disease in laboratory models. A promising new approach to treating glioblastoma proposes targeting cancer stem cells. Here, we summarize progress in delineating NCSC and the implications of the discovery of this cell population in human brain tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AC133 Antigen
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism
  • Glioblastoma / pathology*
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Peptides / metabolism


  • AC133 Antigen
  • Antigens, CD
  • Glycoproteins
  • PROM1 protein, human
  • Peptides