Cancer stem cell: implications in cancer biology and therapy with special reference to lung cancer

Lung Cancer. 2009 Dec;66(3):275-81. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2009.07.019. Epub 2009 Aug 28.


The cancer stem cell (CSC) theory is currently central to the field of cancer research, because it is not only a matter of academic interest but also crucial in cancer therapy. CSCs share a variety of biological properties with normal somatic stem cells in terms of self-renewal, the propagation of differentiated progeny, the expression of specific cell markers and stem cell genes, and the utilization of common signaling pathways and the stem cell niche. However, CSCs differ from normal stem cells in their tumorigenic activity. Thus, CSCs are also termed cancer initiating cells. In this paper, we briefly review hitherto described study results and refer to some excellent review articles to understand the basic properties of CSCs. In addition, we focus upon CSCs of lung cancers, since lung cancer is still increasing in incidence worldwide and remains the leading cause of cancer deaths. Understanding the properties of, and exploring cell markers and signaling pathways specific to, CSCs of lung cancers, will lead to progress in therapy, intervention, and improvement of the prognosis of patients with lung cancer. In the near future, the evaluation of CSCs may be a routine part of practical diagnostic pathology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Differentiation / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / diagnosis
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Non-Small-Cell Lung / therapy
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells* / metabolism
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells* / pathology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma / diagnosis
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma / metabolism
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Small Cell Lung Carcinoma / therapy
  • Stem Cell Niche


  • Antigens, Differentiation