Stem cells in cancer therapy: opportunities and challenges

Cheng-Liang Zhang, Ting Huang, Bi-Li Wu, Wen-Xi He and Dong Liu _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:75756-75766. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.20798

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Cheng-Liang Zhang1, Ting Huang1, Bi-Li Wu2, Wen-Xi He1 and Dong Liu1

1Department of Pharmacy, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China

2Department of Oncology, Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Wuhan, Hubei Province, China

Correspondence to:

Dong Liu, email: ld2069@outlook.com

Keywords: stem cell, targeted cancer therapy, tumor-tropic property, cell carrier

Received: June 22, 2017     Accepted: August 17, 2017     Published: September 08, 2017


Metastatic cancer cells generally cannot be eradicated using traditional surgical or chemoradiotherapeutic strategies, and disease recurrence is extremely common following treatment. On the other hand, therapies employing stem cells are showing increasing promise in the treatment of cancer. Stem cells can function as novel delivery platforms by homing to and targeting both primary and metastatic tumor foci. Stem cells engineered to stably express various cytotoxic agents decrease tumor volumes and extend survival in preclinical animal models. They have also been employed as virus and nanoparticle carriers to enhance primary therapeutic efficacies and relieve treatment side effects. Additionally, stem cells can be applied in regenerative medicine, immunotherapy, cancer stem cell-targeted therapy, and anticancer drug screening applications. However, while using stem cells to treat human cancers appears technically feasible, challenges such as treatment durability and tumorigenesis necessitate further study to improve therapeutic performance and applicability. This review focuses on recent progress toward stem cell-based cancer treatments, and summarizes treatment advantages, opportunities, and shortcomings, potentially helping to refine future trials and facilitate the translation from experimental to clinical studies.

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