BMB Reports 2017; 50(3): 117-125  
Cancer stem cell heterogeneity: origin and new perspectives on CSC targeting
Kiyoung Eun#, Seok Won Ham# & Hyunggee Kim*
Department of Biotechnology, College of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, Korea University, Seoul 02841, Korea
Correspondence to: Tel: +82-2-3290-3059; Fax: +82-2-3290-3040; E-mail:
#These authors contributed equally to this work.
Received: December 8, 2016; Published online: March 31, 2017.
© Korean Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. All rights reserved.

Most of the cancers are still incurable human diseases. According to recent findings, especially targeting cancer stem cells (CSCs) is the most promising therapeutic strategy. CSCs take charge of a cancer hierarchy, harboring stem cell-like properties involving self-renewal and aberrant differentiation potential. Most of all, the presence of CSCs is closely associated with tumorigenesis and therapeutic resistance. Despite the numerous efforts to target CSCs, current anti-cancer therapies are still impeded by CSC-derived cancer malignancies; increased metastases, tumor recurrence, and even acquired resistance against the anti-CSC therapies developed in experimental models. One of the most forceful underlying reasons is a "cancer heterogeneity" due to "CSC plasticity". A comprehensive understanding of CSC-derived heterogeneity will provide novel insights into the establishment of efficient targeting strategies to eliminate CSCs. Here, we introduce findings on mechanisms of CSC reprogramming and CSC plasticity, which give rise to phenotypically varied CSCs. Also, we suggest concepts to improve CSC-targeted therapy in order to overcome therapeutic resistance caused by CSC plasticity and heterogeneity.
Keywords: Cancer, Cancer stem cell, Cancer therapy, Plasticity, Reprogramming
Fig. 1. Core signaling pathways and epigenetic modifications regulating CSC reprogramming and differentiation.

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