Breast cancer stem cell enrichment and isolation by mammosphere culture and its potential diagnostic applications

Expert Rev Mol Diagn. 2013 Jan;13(1):49-60. doi: 10.1586/erm.12.117.


Emerging knowledge about cancer stem cells (CSCs) is raising attention about the need to provide a more precise and complete diagnosis including the molecular profile of a patient's CSCs. As opposed to simply treating the bulk of the tumor, a more complete diagnosis can lead to treatment regimens designed to eradicate CSCs from a patient. In this review the authors detail the application of the mammosphere assay in the study of breast CSCs. The authors then describe the potential transition of the mammosphere assay from the research laboratory to the clinic by leveraging microsystems technology, which enables the integration of multiple functions into a single automated device. To conclude the review, the authors project that future clinical devices will be capable of isolating circulating metastatic cells from patient blood, enriching the dangerous CSCs, and providing a molecular profile of the CSCs, thus arming physicians with the information to select a treatment program that combats CSCs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Cell Culture Techniques*
  • Cell Separation
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / genetics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Molecular Diagnostic Techniques*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / diagnosis
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / diagnosis
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells*
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / genetics


  • Biomarkers, Tumor