Lung cancer stem cells—origin, characteristics and therapy
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have gained an increasing attention recently in cancer research. CSCs have ability to generate new tumor through their stem cell properties, essentially self-renewal potential and differentiation into multiple cell lineages. Extensive evidences report that CSCs are resistant to many conventional therapies and mediate tumor recurrence. CSCs of lung cancer are well recognized by their specific markers such as CD133, CD44, ABCG2 and ALDH1A1 together with the CSC characteristics including spheroid and colony formation. Targeting these surface proteins with blocking antibodies and inhibition of ABC transporters and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) enzymes with small molecules may prove useful in inhibiting tumor progression. The Hh, Notch and Wnt pathways are key signaling cascades that govern cell fate during development and have been shown to be involved in CSCs in various solid tumors. Therapeutic approaches also target these signaling pathways in repressing the tumor progression. This review will focus on stem cell origins, role of signaling pathways, stem cell markers and therapeutic approaches specific to lung cancer.