Cells with "stemness" and tumor-initiating properties have been isolated from both hematological and solid tumors. These cells denominated as cancer stem cells (CSCs), representing rare populations within tumors, have the ability to metastasize and are resistant to standard therapies and immunotherapy. Heterogeneity and plasticity in the phenotype of CSCs have been described in relation to their tissue origin. Few definitive markers have been isolated for CSCs from human solid tumors, limiting their usage for in vivo identification of these cells. Nevertheless, progress in the emerging CSCs concept has been achieved gaining, at least for some type of tumors, their biological and immunological characterization. The recent identification of molecules and signaling pathways that are up-regulated or aberrantly induced in CSCs allowed the development of small agents for specifically targeting of CSCs. A general low immunogenic profile has been reported for CSCs with, in some cases, the identification of the mechanisms responsible of the impairment of cell-mediated immune responses. These concepts are discussed in the context of this review. Although CSCs still need to be fully characterized, potential candidate markers and/or signaling pathways, to be exploited for the design of novel CSC-targeting therapeutic strategies, are described in this review.
- Cancer stem cells · Cancer stem cells- associated signaling pathways · Immunological pro le · Immune modulation · CsC-targeted therapies