Regulation of cancer stem cells in triple negative breast cancer

Cancer Drug Resist. 2021 Jun 19;4(2):321-342. doi: 10.20517/cdr.2020.106. eCollection 2021.


Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) is the most lethal subtype of breast cancer. Despite the successes of emerging targeted therapies, relapse, recurrence, and therapy failure rates in TNBC significantly outpace other subtypes of breast cancer. Mounting evidence suggests accumulation of therapy resistant Cancer Stem Cell (CSC) populations within TNBCs contributes to poor clinical outcomes. These CSCs are enriched in TNBC compared to non-TNBC breast cancers. The mechanisms underlying CSC accumulation have been well-characterized and discussed in other reviews. In this review, we focus on TNBC-specific mechanisms that allow the expansion and activity of self-renewing CSCs. We highlight cellular signaling pathways and transcription factors, specifically enriched in TNBC over non-TNBC breast cancer, contributing to stemness. We also analyze publicly available single-cell RNA-seq data from basal breast cancer tumors to highlight the potential of emerging bioinformatic approaches in identifying novel drivers of stemness in TNBC and other cancers.

Keywords: Cancer stem cells; TNBC; breast cancer; transcriptional regulation.

Publication types

  • Review