Cancer stem cells: progress and challenges in lung cancer
The identification of a subpopulation of tumor cells with stem cell-like characteristics first in hematological malignancies and later in solid tumors has emerged into a novel field of cancer research. It has been proposed that this aberrant population of cells now called “cancer stem cells” (CSCs) drives tumor initiation, progression, metastasis, recurrence, and drug resistance. CSCs have been shown to have the capacity of self-renewal and multipotency. Adopting strategies from the field of stem cell research has aided in identification, localization, and targeting of CSCs in many tumors. Despite the huge progress in other solid tumors such as brain, breast, and colon cancers no substantial advancements have been made in lung cancer. This is most likely due to the current rudimentary understanding of lung stem cell hierarchy and heterogeneous nature of lung disease. In this review, we will discuss the most recent findings related to identification of normal lung stem cells and CSCs, pathways involved in regulating the development of CSCs, and the importance of the stem cell niche in development and maintenance of CSCs. Additionally, we will examine the development and feasibility of novel CSC-targeted therapeutic strategies aimed at eradicating lung CSCs.