Colon cancer stem cells: implications in carcinogenesis

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2011 Jan 1;16:1651-62. doi: 10.2741/3811.


The cancer stem cell model was described for hematologic malignancies in 1997 and since then evidence has emerged to support it for many solid tumors as well, including colon cancer. This model proposes that certain cells within the tumor mass are pluripotent and capable of self-renewal and have an enhanced ability to initiate distant metastasis. The cancer stem cell model has important implications for cancer treatment, since most current therapies target actively proliferating cells and may not be effective against the cancer stem cells that are responsible for recurrence. In recent years great progress has been made in identifying markers of both normal and malignant colon stem cells. Proteins proposed as colon cancer stem cell markers include CD133, CD44, CD166, ALDH1A1, Lgr5, and several others. In this review we consider the evidence for these proteins as colon cancer stem cell markers and as prognostic indicators of colon cancer survival. Additionally, we discuss potential functions of these proteins and the implications this may have for development of therapies that target colon cancer stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AC133 Antigen
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / metabolism
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase 1
  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / metabolism
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal / metabolism
  • Colonic Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Colonic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Fetal Proteins / metabolism
  • Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Prognosis
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Retinal Dehydrogenase
  • Stem Cells / pathology


  • AC133 Antigen
  • ALCAM protein, human
  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase 1
  • Antigens, CD
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules, Neuronal
  • Fetal Proteins
  • Glycoproteins
  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • LGR5 protein, human
  • PROM1 protein, human
  • Peptides
  • Prom1 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase
  • ALDH1A1 protein, human
  • Retinal Dehydrogenase