Cancer stem cells in breast cancer

Jürgen Dittmer*, Achim Rody

*Corresponding author for this work
21 Citations (Scopus)


There is increasing evidence that cancer stem cells (CSCs) play a critical role in breast cancer initiation, progression, metastasis and drug resistance. It is thought that they are either generated from normal mammary stem/progenitor cells or from mammary epithelial cells by epithelial-mesenchymal transition. Breast CSCs are characterized by the activation of stemness-related pathways, such as the Notch and Wnt pathways, and by the expression of certain stem cell markers, such as CD44, EpCAM and ALDH1. CSCs form a minor population, whose proportion depends on various factors, including environmental conditions. Since CSCs are highly resistant to chemotherapy, additional treatment of breast cancer patients with CSCspecific drugs, such as salinomycin and gammasecretase inhibitors which target the Wnt or Notch pathway, respectively, will be required. Interestingly, an equilibrium seems to exist between CSCs and non-stem cancer cells, and there are indications that CSCs can be recruited from non-stem cancer cells. As a consequence, it may be necessary to combine a therapy targeting CSCs with common chemotherapy that targets the bulk tumor to avoid the regeneration of CSCs.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHistology and Histopathology
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)827-838
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 07.2013


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