The Wnt signaling pathways have been conserved throughout evolution and regulate cell proliferation, morphology, motility, and fate during embryonic development. These pathways also play important roles throughout adult life to maintain homeostasis of tissues including skin, blood, intestine, and brain by regulating somatic stem cells and their niches. Aberrant regulation of the Wnt pathway leads to neoplastic proliferation in these same tissues. It has been suggested that Wnt signaling is also involved in the regulation of cancer stem cells (CSC), because there are many similarities in the signaling pathways that regulate normal adult stem cells and CSC. In this Perspective, we have focused on the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway, which is the most intensively studied and best characterized Wnt signaling pathway. We provide an overview on the function of the Wnt/beta-catenin signaling pathway in CSC, and the possibility of the development of novel therapeutics to target this pathway.
(c) 2010 AACR.