Cancer stem cells and their unique role in metastatic spread

Semin Cancer Biol. 2020 Feb;60:148-156. doi: 10.1016/j.semcancer.2019.09.007. Epub 2019 Sep 12.


Cancer stem cells (CSC) possess abilities generally associated with embryonic or adult stem cells, especially self-renewal and differentiation, but also dormancy and cellular plasticity that allow adaption to new environmental circumstances. These abilities are ideal prerequisites for the successful establishment of metastasis. This review highlights the role of CSCs in every step of the metastatic cascade from cancer cell invasion into blood vessels, survival in the blood stream, attachment and extravasation as well as colonization of the host organ and subsequent establishment of distant macrometastasis.

Keywords: Angiogenesis; Dormancy; EMT; Invasion; Migration; Stem cell niche.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Plasticity
  • Cell Survival
  • Disease Progression
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / genetics
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment*