Therapeutic Implications of Cellular Heterogeneity and Plasticity in Breast Cancer

Cell Stem Cell. 2015 Sep 3;17(3):260-71. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2015.08.014.


Cellular heterogeneity represents one of the greatest challenges in cancer therapeutics. In many malignancies, this heterogeneity is generated during tumor evolution through a combination of genetic alterations and epigenetic events that recapitulate normal developmental processes including stem cell self-renewal and differentiation. Many, if not most, tumors display similar hierarchal organization, at the apex of which are "stem-like cells" that drive tumor growth, mediate metastasis, and contribute to treatment resistance. Using breast cancer as a model, we discuss how an improved understanding of tumor cellular heterogeneity and plasticity may lead to development of more effective therapeutic strategies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / classification
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Carcinogenesis / pathology
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Tumor Microenvironment