Pancreatic cancer stem cells - insights and perspectives.

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Expert Opin Biol Ther. 2009 Sep 2. [Epub ahead of print]

Pancreatic cancer stem cells - insights and perspectives.
Hermann PC, Mueller MT, Heeschen C.
National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), Stem Cells & Cancer Unit,
Clinical Research Programme, Madrid, Spain

Solid tumours are the most common cancers and represent a major
therapeutic challenge. The cancer stem cell (CSC) hypothesis is an
attractive model to explain the functional heterogeneity commonly
observed in solid tumours. It proposes a hierarchical organization of
tumours, in which a subpopulation of stem cell-like cells sustains
tumour growth, metastasis and resistance to therapy. Objective: Here we
review the most recent advances in the CSC field, with particular
emphasis on pancreatic cancer as one of the deadliest human tumours,
and highlight open questions and caveats to be addressed in future
studies. Methods: This review focuses on the role of CSC in the
promotion and metastasis of solid tumours and summarizes recent
findings regarding the targeting of signalling pathways that are of
particular importance for the maintenance and the elimination of CSC as
the proposed root of the tumour. Results/conclusions: There is
increasing evidence that solid tumours, including pancreatic cancer,
are hierarchically organized and sustained by a distinct subpopulation
of CSC. Direct evidence for the CSC hypothesis has emerged from mouse
models only recently. While the clinical relevance of CSC remains a
fundamental issue, current findings suggest that specific targeting of
these cells is possible and therapeutically relevant.