Can Breast Cancer Stem Cells Evade the Immune System?

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The evidence seems to be growing in favor of the stem cell theory of cancer with the emergence of studies demonstrating the parallel mechanisms of self renewing pathways in stem cells and particular subsets of cancer cells. The finding of leukemia stem cells and subsequently breast cancer stem cells (BCSC) further supports the concept. The importance of these findings lends itself to the selfrenewal properties of stem cells in addition to the survival characteristics of stem cells, mechanisms that will have to be overcome when creating treatment modalities. In particular, research has shown that stem cells and a specific type of stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells (MSC), have special drug effluxing properties and some interactions with particular cells of the immune system that may serve major roles in immunosuppresion and overall tumor cell survival. Furthermore, the recent discovery of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) has laid out a possible mechanism for tumor cells to lose particular phenotypic epithelial cell markers and gain phenotypic mesenchymal cell markers. This process is implicated in metastasis in addition to overall tumor survival and evasion of the immune system. This review examines the current understanding of how tumor cells evade the immune system, but will first explore stem cells, cancer stem cells, normal immune interaction with tumor cells, and EMT.

Keywords: Cancer; Mesenchymal Stem Cells; Microenvironment; Regulatory T-cells; Stem Cells

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2012

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.
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