Lung cancer stem cells and lung cancer

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Lung cancers are highly heterogeneous and resistant to available therapeutic agents, with a five year survival rate of less than 15%. It has been difficult to determine the basis of lung cancer heterogeneity and drug resistance. Cancer stem cell model has attracted a significant amount of attention in recent years as a viable explanation for the heterogeneity, drug resistance, dormancy and recurrence and metastasis of various tumors.


To summarize the current understanding of lung cancer stem cells, including their histological types and tumor growth areas, and to discusses the prognosis of lung cancer and its relationship with lung cancer stem cells, in an effort to eradicate these cells to combat lung cancer.


In order to search relevant articles about the lung cancer stem cell and its relationship with lung cancer from PubMed and Sciencedirect databases (from 1990 to 2014), a computer-based search was performed, using the key words of "lung cancer, cancer stem cell, lung cancer stem cell, lung cancer occur, tumor heterogeneity, drug resistance, gene mutation, signal pathways" in English. After eliminating literatures which were irrelevant to research purpose or containing a similar content, 48 articles were chosen for further analysis.


The cancer stem cell model has gained considerable support recently in context of lung cancers and stem-like cells that are associated with aggressive cancer behavior, metastatic progression, resistance to therapy and relapse. Since lung cancer stem cells are thought to consist of a heterogeneous population depending on the histology and site of tumors, and multiple signaling pathways might have to be targeted to effectively eliminate lung cancer stem cells for therapeutic benefit. It can be imagined that the multidisciplinary efforts currently under way to characterize and target stem-like cells in lung cancer will reap significant therapeutic benefits in the future.

Subject headings:

lung neoplasms; neoplastic stem cells; tumor stem cell assay; neoplasms by histologic type


the Natural Science Foundation of Hunan Province, No. 14JJ7092; the Scientific Research Program of Hunan Provincial Department of Health, No. C2013-027

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