Cancer stem cell immunology and immunotherapy: Harnessing the immune system against cancer's source

R. Ruiu, L. Tarone, V. Rolih, G. Barutello, E. Bolli, F. Riccardo, F. Cavallo, L. Conti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite recent advances in diagnosis and therapy having improved cancer outcome, many patients still do not respond to treatments, resulting in the progression or relapse of the disease, eventually impairing survival expectations. The limited efficacy of therapy is often attributable to its inability to affect cancer stem cells (CSCs), a small population of cells resistant to current radio- and chemo-therapies. CSCs are characterized by self-renewal and tumor-initiating capabilities, and function as a reservoir for the local and distant recurrence of the disease. Therefore, new therapeutic approaches able to effectively target and deplete CSCs are urgently needed. Immunotherapy is facing a renewed interest for its potential in cancer treatment, and the possibility of harnessing the immune system to target CSCs is being addressed by a new exciting research field. In this chapter, we discuss the cancer stem cell model and illustrate CSC biological and molecular properties, critically addressing theoretical and practical issues linked with their definition and study. We then review the existing literature regarding the immunological properties of CSCs and the complex interplay occurring between CSCs and immune cells. Finally, we present up-to-date studies on CSC immunotargeting and its potential future perspective. In conclusion, understanding the interplay between CSC biology and tumor immunology will provide a deeper understanding of the mechanisms that regulate CSC immunological properties. This will contribute to the design of new CSC-directed immunotherapeutic strategies with the potential of strongly improving cancer outcomes.
Original languageItalian
Pages (from-to)119-188
Number of pages70
JournalProgress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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