Stem Cells in Epithelial Renewal and Cancer of the Intestine
The recent identification of reliable adult stem cell markers in the intestine has driven major advances in our understanding of stem cell roles in both normal tissue homeostasis and cancer. A principal route to colon cancer initiation is aberrant activation of Wnt signalling activity in long-lived adult stem cells at the crypt base. Tumour-resident stem cell populations within the resulting adenomas are considered likely targets for accumulation of additional mutations, driving a stepwise transition towards invasive carcinoma. These purported cancer stem cell populations have received widespread interest as potential therapeutic targets, fuelling efforts to identify specific biomarkers that facilitate their isolation and/or the development of tailored drugs. Here we review recent advances in (cancer) stem cell biology and highlight the obstacles to translation of this knowledge into therapeutic applications in the clinic.
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