Breast cancer stem cells and epithelial mesenchymal plasticity - Implications for chemoresistance

Cletus A. Pinto, Edwin Widodo, Mark Waltham, Erik W. Thompson

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79 Citations (Scopus)


Tumour heterogeneity is a key characteristic of cancer and has significant implications relating to tumour response to chemotherapy as well as patient prognosis and potential relapse. It is being increasingly accepted that tumours are clonal in origin, suggestive of a tumour arising from a deregulated or mutated cell. Cancer stem cells (CSC) possess these capabilities, and with appropriate intracellular triggers and/or signalling from extracellular environments, can purportedly differentiate to initiate tumour formation. Additionally through epithelial mesenchymal plasticity (EMP), where cells gain and maintain characteristics of both epithelial and mesenchymal cell types, epithelial-derived tumour cells have been shown to de-differentiate to acquire cancer stem attributes, which also impart chemotherapy resistance. This new paradigm places EMP centrally in the process of tumour progression and metastasis, as well as modulating drug response to current forms of chemotherapy. Furthermore, EMP and CSCs have been identified in cancers arising from different tissue types making it a possible generic therapeutic target in cancer biology. Using breast cancer (BrCa) as an example, we summarise here the current understanding of CSCs, the role of EMP in cancer biology - especially in CSCs and different molecular subtypes, and the implications this has for current and future cancer treatment strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-62
Number of pages7
JournalCancer Letters
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 28 Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Chemoresistance
  • Epithelial mesenchymal plasticity
  • Stem Cells

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