Canonical Wnt signaling supports the formation and maintenance of stem and cancer stem cells. Recent studies have elucidated epigenetic mechanisms that control pluripotency and stemness, and allow a first assessment how embryonic and tissue stem cells are generated and maintained, and how Wnt signaling might be involved. The core of this review highlights the roles of Wnt signaling in stem and cancer stem cells of tissues such as skin, intestine and mammary gland. Lastly, we refer to the characterization of novel and powerful inhibitors of canonical Wnt signaling and describe attempts to bring these compounds into preclinical and clinical studies.
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