Stem cell state and the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition: Implications for cancer therapy

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The cancer stem cell paradigm, the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and its converse, the mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition, have reached convergence. Implicit in this understanding is the notion that cancer cells can change state, and with such change come bidirectional alterations in motility, proliferative activity, and drug resistance. As such, tumors present a moving target for antineoplastic therapy. This article will review the evolving adult stem cell paradigm and how changes in our understanding of the bidirectional nature of cancer cell differentiation may affect the selection and timing of antineoplastic therapy. The goal is to determine how to best administer therapies potentially targeted against the cancer stem cell state in the context of established treatment regimens, and to evaluate long-term effects beyond tumor regression.

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