Mammary gland stem cells and their application in breast cancer

Xing Yang, Hui Wang and Baowei Jiao _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:10675-10691. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.12893

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Xing Yang1,2, Hui Wang1 and Baowei Jiao1

1 State Key Laboratory of Genetic Resources and Evolution, Kunming Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Kunming, Yunnan, China

2 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China

Correspondence to:

Baowei Jiao, email:

Hui Wang, email:

Keywords: mammary gland stem cells, MaSCs, breast cancer stem cells, BCSCs, therapeutic perspectives

Received: June 14, 2016 Accepted: October 14, 2016 Published: October 25, 2016


The mammary gland is an organ comprising two primary lineages, specifically the inner luminal and the outer myoepithelial cell layers. Mammary gland stem cells (MaSCs) are highly dynamic and self-renewing, and can give rise to these mammary gland lineages. The lineages are responsible for gland generation during puberty as well as expansion during pregnancy. In recent years, researchers have focused on understanding how MaSCs are regulated during mammary gland development and transformation of breast cancer. Here, we summarize the identification of MaSCs, and how they are regulated by the signaling transduction pathways, mammary gland microenvironment, and non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs). Moreover, we debate the evidence for their serving as the origin of breast cancer, and discuss the therapeutic perspectives of targeting breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs). In conclusion, a better understanding of the key regulators of MaSCs is crucial for the clinical treatment of breast cancer.

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