Normal stem cells and cancer stem cells: Similar and different

Mark Shackleton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

103 Citations (Scopus)


The functional capabilities of normal stem cells and tumorigenic cancer cells are conceptually similar in that both cell types are able to proliferate extensively. Indeed, mechanisms that regulate the defining property of normal stem cells - self-renewal - also frequently mediate oncogenesis. These conceptual links are strengthened by observations in some cancers that tumorigenic cells can not only renew their malignant potential but also generate bulk populations of non-tumorigenic cells in a manner that parallels the development of differentiated progeny from normal stem cells. But cancer cells are not normal. Although tumorigenic cells and normal stem cells are similar in some ways, they are also fundamentally different in other ways. Understanding both shared and distinguishing mechanisms that regulate normal stem cell proliferation and tumor propagation is likely to reveal opportunities for improving the treatment of patients with cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-92
Number of pages8
JournalSeminars in Cancer Biology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer progression
  • Cancer regression
  • Cancer stem cell
  • Interconversion
  • Plasticity
  • Self-renewal
  • Stem cell

Cite this