Epithelial-to-mesenchymal plasticity of cancer stem cells: Therapeutic targets in hepatocellular carcinoma Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) remains one of the most common and lethal malignancies worldwide despite the development of various therapeutic strategies. A better understanding of the mechanisms responsible for HCC initiation and progression is essential for the development of more effective therapies. The cancer stem cell (CSC) model has provided new insights into the development and progression of HCC. CSCs are specialized tumor cells that are capable of self-renewal and have long-term repopulation potential. As they are important mediators of tumor proliferation, invasion, metastasis, therapy resistance, and cancer relapse, the selective targeting of this crucial population of cells has the potential to improve HCC patient outcomes and survival. In recent years, the role of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in the advancement of HCC has gained increasing attention. This multi-step reprograming process resulting in a phenotype switch from an epithelial to a mesenchymal cellular state has been closely associated with the acquisition of stem cell-like attributes in tumors. Moreover, CSC mediates tumor metastasis by maintaining plasticity to transition between epithelial or mesenchymal states. Therefore, understanding the molecular mechanisms of the reprograming switches that determine the progression through EMT and generation of CSC is essential for developing clinically relevant drug targets. This review provides an overview of the proposed roles of CSC in HCC and discusses recent results supporting the emerging role of EMT in facilitating hepatic CSC plasticity. In particular, we discuss how these important new insights may facilitate rational development of combining CSC- and EMT-targeted therapies in the future.

publication date

  • 2016