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Mediators of Inflammation
Volume 2016, Article ID 9012369, 15 pages
Review Article

Cancer Stem Cells and Macrophages: Implications in Tumor Biology and Therapeutic Strategies

1Department of Biochemistry, Autónoma University of Madrid, School of Medicine, 28018 Madrid, Spain
2Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas “Alberto Sols”, CSIC and UAM, 28018 Madrid, Spain
3Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Tulane Cancer Center, Tulane School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA

Received 19 November 2015; Accepted 31 December 2015

Academic Editor: Seth B. Coffelt

Copyright © 2016 Bruno Sainz Jr. et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a unique subset of cells within tumors with stemlike properties that have been proposed to be key drivers of tumor initiation and progression. CSCs are functionally defined by their unlimited self-renewal capacity and their ability to initiate tumor formation in vivo. Like normal stem cells, CSCs exist in a cellular niche comprised of numerous cell types including tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) which provides a unique microenvironment to protect and promote CSC functions. TAMs provide pivotal signals to promote CSC survival, self-renewal, maintenance, and migratory ability, and in turn, CSCs deliver tumor-promoting cues to TAMs that further enhance tumorigenesis. Studies in the last decade have aimed to understand the molecular mediators of CSCs and TAMs, and recent advances have begun to elucidate the complex cross talk that occurs between these two cell types. In this review, we discuss the molecular interactions that define CSC-TAM cross talk at each stage of tumor progression and examine the clinical implications of targeting these interactions.