Evidence for self-renewing lung cancer stem cells and their implications in tumor initiation, progression, and targeted therapy

James P. Sullivan, John D. Minna, Jerry W. Shay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

127 Scopus citations


The discovery of rare tumor cells with stem cell features first in leukemia and later in solid tumors has emerged as an important area in cancer research. It has been determined that these stem-like tumor cells, termed cancer stem cells, are the primary cellular component within a tumor that drives disease progression and metastasis. In addition to their stem-like ability to self-renew and differentiate, cancer stem cells are also enriched in cells resistant to conventional radiation therapy and to chemotherapy. The immediate implications of this new tumor growth paradigm not only require a re-evaluation of how tumors are initiated, but also on how tumors should be monitored and treated. However, despite the relatively rapid pace of cancer stem cell research in solid tumors such as breast, brain, and colon cancers, similar progress in lung cancer remains hampered in part due to an incomplete understanding of lung epithelial stem cell hierarchy and the complex heterogeneity of the disease. In this review, we provide a critical summary of what is known about the role of normal and malignant lung stem cells in tumor development, the progress in characterizing lung cancer stem cells and the potential for therapeutically targeting pathways of lung cancer stem cell self-renewal.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-72
Number of pages12
JournalCancer and Metastasis Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2010



  • Cancer stem cell
  • Lung cancer
  • Lung stem cell
  • Self-renewal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research

Cite this