Colorectal cancer stem cells: from the crypt to the clinic

Ann Zeuner, Matilde Todaro, Giorgio Stassi, Ruggero De Maria Marchiano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

208 Citations (Scopus)


Since their first discovery, investigations of colorectal cancer stem cells (CSCs) have revealed some unexpected properties, including a high degree of heterogeneity and plasticity. By exploiting a combination of genetic, epigenetic, and microenvironmental factors, colorectal CSCs metastasize, resist chemotherapy, and continually adapt to a changing microenvironment, representing a formidable challenge to cancer eradication. Here, we review the current understanding of colorectal CSCs, including their origin, relationship to stem cells of the intestine, phenotypic characterization, and underlying regulatory mechanisms. We also discuss limitations to current preclinical models of colorectal cancer and how understanding CSC plasticity can improve the development of clinical strategies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)692-705
Number of pages14
JournalCell Stem Cell
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Animals
  • Colonic Neoplasms
  • Colorectal Neoplasms
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Intestines
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells
  • Pluripotent Stem Cells
  • Tumor Escape


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