Cellular senescence plays a paradoxical role in tumorigenesis through the expression of diverse senescence-associated (SA) secretory phenotypes (SASPs). The heterogeneity of SA gene expression in cancer cells not only promotes cancer stemness but also protects these cells from chemotherapy. Despite the potential correlation between cancer and SA biomarkers, many transcriptional changes across distinct cell populations remain largely unknown. During the past decade, single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) technologies have emerged as powerful experimental and analytical tools to dissect such diverse senescence-derived transcriptional changes. Here, we review the recent sequencing efforts that successfully characterized scRNA-seq data obtained from diverse cancer cells and elucidated the role of senescent cells in tumor malignancy. We further highlight the functional implications of SA genes expressed specifically in cancer and stromal cell populations in the tumor microenvironment. Translational research leveraging scRNA-seq profiling of SA genes will facilitate the identification of novel expression patterns underlying cancer susceptibility, providing new therapeutic opportunities in the era of precision medicine.
Keywords: cancer; cellular heterogeneity; senescence; single-cell RNA sequencing.