The adaptive transition of glioblastoma stem cells and its implications on treatments

Signal Transduct Target Ther. 2021 Mar 23;6(1):124. doi: 10.1038/s41392-021-00491-w.


Glioblastoma is the most malignant tumor occurring in the human central nervous system with overall median survival time <14.6 months. Current treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy cannot reach an optimal remission since tumor resistance to therapy remains a challenge. Glioblastoma stem cells are considered to be responsible for tumor resistance in treating glioblastoma. Previous studies reported two subtypes, proneural and mesenchymal, of glioblastoma stem cells manifesting different sensitivity to radiotherapy or chemotherapy. Mesenchymal glioblastoma stem cells, as well as tumor cells generate from which, showed resistance to radiochemotherapies. Besides, two metabolic patterns, glutamine or glucose dependent, of mesenchymal glioblastoma stem cells also manifested different sensitivity to radiochemotherapies. Glutamine dependent mesenchymal glioblastoma stem cells are more sensitive to radiotherapy than glucose-dependent ones. Therefore, the transition between proneural and mesenchymal subtypes, or between glutamine-dependent and glucose-dependent, might lead to tumor resistance to radiochemotherapies. Moreover, neural stem cells were also hypothesized to participate in glioblastoma stem cells mediated tumor resistance to radiochemotherapies. In this review, we summarized the basic characteristics, adaptive transition and implications of glioblastoma stem cells in glioblastoma therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Glioblastoma / genetics
  • Glioblastoma / metabolism*
  • Glioblastoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells / pathology
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Neural Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neural Stem Cells / pathology
  • Tumor Microenvironment / genetics