Lung cancer is a devastating disease and a major therapeutic burden with poor survival rates. The discovery of rare cells with stem cell-like properties in solid tumours is emerging as an important area of cancer research and may help explain the resistance of these tumours to current therapeutics. Despite rapid developments in cancer stem cell research in other solid tumours, progress in the lung has been hampered by an incomplete understanding of the epithelial stem cell hierarchy, the heterogeneity of disease and the lack of a suitable in vivo transplantation model to assess stem cell behaviour. In this review we critically discuss what is currently known about the role of normal stem cells and cancer-initiating cells in lung tumour development, and briefly discuss strategies aimed at advancing the field of lung stem cell biology, with an emphasis on the design and manipulation of state-of-art mouse models.
Copyright © 2010 Federation of European Biochemical Societies. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.