Biological and clinical implications of cancer stem cells in primary brain tumors

Marcello Maugeri-Saccà, Simona Di Martino, Ruggero De Maria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite therapeutic advances, glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) remains a lethal disease. The infiltrative nature of this disease and the presence of a cellular population resistant to current medical treatments account for the poor prognosis of these patients. Growing evidence indicates the existence of a fraction of cancer cells sharing the functional properties of adult stem cells, including self-renewal and a greater ability to escape chemo-radiotherapy-induced death stimuli. Therefore, these cells are commonly defined as cancer stem cells (GBM-SCs). The initial GBM-SC concept has been challenged, and refined according to the emerging molecular taxonomy of GBM. This allowed to postulate the existence of multiple CSC types, each one driving a given molecular entity. Furthermore, it is becoming increasingly clear that GBM-SCs thrive through a dynamic and bidirectional interaction with the surrounding microenvironment. In this article, we discuss recent advances in GBM-SC biology, mechanisms through which these cells adapt to hostile conditions, pharmacological strategies for selectively killing GBM-SCs, and how novel CSC-associated endpoints have been investigated in the clinical setting.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberArticle 00006
JournalFrontiers in Oncology
Volume3 JAN
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Cancer stem cells
  • Canonical pathway inhibitors
  • Chemo-radioresistance
  • Differentiation-inducing agents
  • Glioblastoma multiforme
  • Hypoxia
  • Self-renewal pathway inhibitors
  • Stem cell-based endpoints

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research
  • Oncology


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