DNA damage response and resistance of cancer stem cells

Cancer Lett. 2020 Apr 1;474:106-117. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2020.01.008. Epub 2020 Jan 20.


The cancer stem cell (CSC) model defines tumors as hierarchically organized entities, containing a small population of tumorigenic CSC, or tumour-initiating cells, placed at the apex of this hierarchy. These cells may share common qualities with chemo- and radio-resistant cancer cells and contribute to self-renewal activities resulting in tumour formation, maintenance, growth and metastasis. Yet, it remains obscure what self-defense mechanisms are utilized by these cells against the chemotherapeutic drugs or radiotherapy. Recently, attention has been focused on the pivotal role of the DNA damage response (DDR) in tumorigenesis. In line with this note, an increased DDR that prevents CSC and chemoresistant cells from genotoxic pressure of chemotherapeutic drugs or radiation may be responsible for cancer metastasis. In this review, we focus on the current knowledge concerning the role of DDR in CSC and resistant cancer cells and describe the existing opportunities of re-sensitizing such cells to modulate therapeutic treatment effects.

Keywords: Chemoresistance; DNA damage and repair; Radioresistance; Tumour-initiating cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis
  • DNA Damage*
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / radiation effects
  • Radiation Tolerance*


  • Antineoplastic Agents