Metastatic potential of tumor-initiating cells in solid tumors

Front Biosci (Landmark Ed). 2011 Jan 1;16:1927-38. doi: 10.2741/3831.


The lethality of cancer is mainly caused by its properties of metastasis, drug resistance, and subsequent recurrence. Understanding the mechanisms governing these properties and developing novel strategies to overcome them will greatly improve the survival of cancer patients. Recent findings suggest that tumors are comprised of heterogeneous cell populations, and only a small fraction of these are tumorigenic with the ability to self-renew and produce phenotypically diverse tumor cell populations. Cells in this fraction are called tumor-initiating cells (TICs) or cancer stem cells (CSCs). TICs have been identified from many types of cancer. They share several similarities with normal adult stem cells including sphere-forming ability, self-renewability, and expression of stem cell surface markers and transcription factors. TICs have also been proposed to be responsible for cancer metastasis, however, scarce evidence for their metastatic potential has been provided. In this review article, we have attempted to summarize the studies which have examined the metastatic potential of TICs in solid tumors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters / analysis
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase / analysis
  • Bone Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Separation / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyaluronan Receptors / analysis
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / physiopathology*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Osteosarcoma / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Stomach Neoplasms / pathology


  • ATP-Binding Cassette Transporters
  • CD44 protein, human
  • Hyaluronan Receptors
  • Aldehyde Dehydrogenase