An update on the biology of cancer stem cells in breast cancer

Clin Transl Oncol. 2008 Dec;10(12):786-93. doi: 10.1007/s12094-008-0291-9.


Breast cancer stem cells are defined as cancer cells with self-renewal capacity. These cells represent a small subpopulation endowed with the ability to form new tumours when injected in nude mice. Markers of differentiation have been used to identify these cancer cells. In the case of breast cancer, CD44+/CD24- select a population with stem cell properties. The fact that these cells have self-renewal ability has suggested that this population could be responsible for new tumour formation and cancer relapse. These cells have been shown to be more resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy than normal cancer cells. The identification of the molecular druggable alterations responsible for the initiation and maintenance of cancer stem cells is an important goal. In this article we will review all these points with special emphasis on the possible role of new drugs designed to interact with molecular pathways of cancer stem cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemical synthesis
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Drug Delivery Systems / methods
  • Drug Design
  • Environment
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / genetics


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Biomarkers, Tumor