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      Cancer stem cells (CSCs): metabolic strategies for their identification and eradication

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          Abstract

          Phenotypic and functional heterogeneity is one of the most relevant features of cancer cells within different tumor types and is responsible for treatment failure. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a population of cells with stem cell-like properties that are considered to be the root cause of tumor heterogeneity, because of their ability to generate the full repertoire of cancer cell types. Moreover, CSCs have been invoked as the main drivers of metastatic dissemination and therapeutic resistance. As such, targeting CSCs may be a useful strategy to improve the effectiveness of classical anticancer therapies. Recently, metabolism has been considered as a relevant player in CSC biology, and indeed, oncogenic alterations trigger the metabolite-driven dissemination of CSCs. More interestingly, the action of metabolic pathways in CSC maintenance might not be merely a consequence of genomic alterations. Indeed, certain metabotypic phenotypes may play a causative role in maintaining the stem traits, acting as an orchestrator of stemness. Here, we review the current studies on the metabolic features of CSCs, focusing on the biochemical energy pathways involved in CSC maintenance and propagation. We provide a detailed overview of the plastic metabolic behavior of CSCs in response to microenvironment changes, genetic aberrations, and pharmacological stressors. In addition, we describe the potential of comprehensive metabolic approaches to identify and selectively eradicate CSCs, together with the possibility to ‘force’ CSCs within certain metabolic dependences, in order to effectively target such metabolic biochemical inflexibilities. Finally, we focus on targeting mitochondria to halt CSC dissemination and effectively eradicate cancer.

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          Most cited references 135

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          Identification of pancreatic cancer stem cells.

          Emerging evidence has suggested that the capability of a tumor to grow and propagate is dependent on a small subset of cells within a tumor, termed cancer stem cells. Although data have been provided to support this theory in human blood, brain, and breast cancers, the identity of pancreatic cancer stem cells has not been determined. Using a xenograft model in which primary human pancreatic adenocarcinomas were grown in immunocompromised mice, we identified a highly tumorigenic subpopulation of pancreatic cancer cells expressing the cell surface markers CD44, CD24, and epithelial-specific antigen (ESA). Pancreatic cancer cells with the CD44(+)CD24(+)ESA(+) phenotype (0.2-0.8% of pancreatic cancer cells) had a 100-fold increased tumorigenic potential compared with nontumorigenic cancer cells, with 50% of animals injected with as few as 100 CD44(+)CD24(+)ESA(+) cells forming tumors that were histologically indistinguishable from the human tumors from which they originated. The enhanced ability of CD44(+)CD24(+)ESA(+) pancreatic cancer cells to form tumors was confirmed in an orthotopic pancreatic tail injection model. The CD44(+)CD24(+)ESA(+) pancreatic cancer cells showed the stem cell properties of self-renewal, the ability to produce differentiated progeny, and increased expression of the developmental signaling molecule sonic hedgehog. Identification of pancreatic cancer stem cells and further elucidation of the signaling pathways that regulate their growth and survival may provide novel therapeutic approaches to treat pancreatic cancer, which is notoriously resistant to standard chemotherapy and radiation.
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            Identification of selective inhibitors of cancer stem cells by high-throughput screening.

            Screens for agents that specifically kill epithelial cancer stem cells (CSCs) have not been possible due to the rarity of these cells within tumor cell populations and their relative instability in culture. We describe here an approach to screening for agents with epithelial CSC-specific toxicity. We implemented this method in a chemical screen and discovered compounds showing selective toxicity for breast CSCs. One compound, salinomycin, reduces the proportion of CSCs by >100-fold relative to paclitaxel, a commonly used breast cancer chemotherapeutic drug. Treatment of mice with salinomycin inhibits mammary tumor growth in vivo and induces increased epithelial differentiation of tumor cells. In addition, global gene expression analyses show that salinomycin treatment results in the loss of expression of breast CSC genes previously identified by analyses of breast tissues isolated directly from patients. This study demonstrates the ability to identify agents with specific toxicity for epithelial CSCs.
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              Identification and expansion of the tumorigenic lung cancer stem cell population.

              Lung carcinoma is often incurable and remains the leading cancer killer in both men and women. Recent evidence indicates that tumors contain a small population of cancer stem cells that are responsible for tumor maintenance and spreading. The identification of the tumorigenic population that sustains lung cancer may contribute significantly to the development of effective therapies. Here, we found that the tumorigenic cells in small cell and non-small cell lung cancer are a rare population of undifferentiated cells expressing CD133, an antigen present in the cell membrane of normal and cancer-primitive cells of the hematopoietic, neural, endothelial and epithelial lineages. Lung cancer CD133(+) cells were able to grow indefinitely as tumor spheres in serum-free medium containing epidermal growth factor and basic fibroblast growth factor. The injection of 10(4) lung cancer CD133(+) cells in immunocompromised mice readily generated tumor xenografts phenotypically identical to the original tumor. Upon differentiation, lung cancer CD133(+) cells acquired the specific lineage markers, while loosing the tumorigenic potential together with CD133 expression. Thus, lung cancer contains a rare population of CD133(+) cancer stem-like cells able to self-renew and generates an unlimited progeny of non-tumorigenic cells. Molecular and functional characterization of such a tumorigenic population may provide valuable information to be exploited in the clinical setting.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Biochem J
                Biochem. J
                ppbiochemj
                BCJ
                Biochemical Journal
                Portland Press Ltd.
                0264-6021
                1470-8728
                15 May 2018
                9 May 2018
                : 475
                : 9
                : 1611-1634
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Pharmacy, Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Calabria, Rende, Italy
                [2 ]The Paterson Institute, University of Manchester, Withington, Manchester, U.K.
                [3 ]Translational Medicine, School of Environment and Life Sciences, Biomedical Research Centre (BRC), University of Salford, Greater Manchester, U.K.
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Michael P. Lisanti ( michaelp.lisanti@ 123456gmail.com )
                Article
                BCJ-475-1611
                10.1042/BCJ20170164
                5941316
                29743249
                © 2018 The Author(s)

                This is an open access article published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the Biochemical Society and distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).

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                Biochemistry

                mitochondria, cancer stem cells, metabolism

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