World J Stem Cells 2015 Jan;7(1):27-36
Marina Carla Cabrera, Robert E Hollingsworth, Elaine M Hurt, MedImmune, LLC, Department of Oncology Research, Gaithersburg, MD 20878, United States.
The origins of the complex process of intratumoral heterogeneity have been highly debated and different cellular mechanisms have been hypothesized to account for the diversity within a tumor. The clonal evolution and cancer stem cell (CSC) models have been proposed as drivers of this heterogeneity. However, the concept of cancer stem cell plasticity and bidirectional conversion between stem and non-stem cells has added additional complexity to these highly studied paradigms and may help explain the tumor heterogeneity observed in solid tumors. The process of cancer stem cell plasticity in which cancer cells harbor the dynamic ability of shifting from a non-CSC state to a CSC state and vice versa may be modulated by specific microenvironmental signals and cellular interactions arising in the tumor niche. In addition to promoting CSC plasticity, these interactions may contribute to the cellular transformation of tumor cells and affect response to chemotherapeutic and radiation treatments by providing CSCs protection from these agents. Herein, we review the literature in support of this dynamic CSC state, discuss the effectors of plasticity, and examine their role in the development and treatment of cancer.