The role of breast cancer stem cells in metastasis and therapeutic implications

Am J Pathol. 2011 Jul;179(1):2-11. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2011.03.005. Epub 2011 Apr 28.


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) possess the capacity to self-renew and to generate heterogeneous lineages of cancer cells that comprise tumors. A substantial body of evidence supports a model in which CSCs play a major role in the initiation, maintenance, and clinical outcome of cancers. In contrast, analysis of the role of CSCs in metastasis has been mainly conceptual and speculative. This review summarizes recent data that support the theory of CSCs as the source of metastatic lesions in breast cancer, with a focus on the key role of the microenvironment in the stemness-metastasis link.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / prevention & control*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / radiation effects*