Induced cancer stem cells generated by radiochemotherapy and their therapeutic implications

Xiewan Chen, Rongxia Liao, Dezhi Li and Jianguo Sun _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:17301-17312. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.14230

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Xiewan Chen1,2, Rongxia Liao1, Dezhi Li2 and Jianguo Sun2

1 Medical English Department, College of Basic Medicine, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, China

2 Cancer Institute of PLA, Xinqiao Hospital, Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, China

Correspondence to:

Jianguo Sun, email:

Keywords: induced cancer stem cells, dedifferentiation, reprogramming, plasticity, therapeutic resistance

Received: October 10, 2016 Accepted: December 13, 2016 Published: December 26, 2016


Local and distant recurrence of malignant tumors following radio- and/or chemotherapy correlates with poor prognosis of patients. Among the reasons for cancer recurrence, preexisting cancer stem cells (CSCs) are considered the most likely cause due to their properties of self-renewal, pluripotency, plasticity and tumorigenicity. It has been demonstrated that preexisting cancer stem cells derive from normal stem cells and differentiated somatic cells that undergo transformation and dedifferentiation respectively under certain conditions. However, recent studies have revealed that cancer stem cells can also be induced from non-stem cancer cells by radiochemotherapy, constituting the subpopulation of induced cancer stem cells (iCSCs). These findings suggest that radiochemotherapy has the side effect of directly transforming non-stem cancer cells into induced cancer stem cells, possibly contributing to tumor recurrence and metastasis. Therefore, drugs targeting cancer stem cells or preventing dedifferentiation of non-stem cancer cells can be combined with radiochemotherapy to improve its antitumor efficacy. The current review is to investigate the mechanisms by which induced cancer stem cells are generated by radiochemotherapy and hence provide new strategies for cancer treatment.

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