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Stem Cells International
Volume 2017, Article ID 5619472, 17 pages
Review Article

Stemness in Cancer: Stem Cells, Cancer Stem Cells, and Their Microenvironment

1Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales, Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), 170901 Quito, Ecuador
2Colegio de Ciencias de la Salud, Escuela de Medicina Veterinaria, Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), 170901 Quito, Ecuador
3Mito-Act Research Consortium, Quito, Ecuador
4Colegio de Ciencias de la Salud, Escuela de Medicina, Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), 170901 Quito, Ecuador
5Colegio de Ciencias Biológicas y Ambientales, Instituto de Microbiología, Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ), 170901 Quito, Ecuador

Correspondence should be addressed to Andrés Caicedo; ce.ude.qfsu@odeciaca

Received 9 December 2016; Revised 31 January 2017; Accepted 19 February 2017; Published 4 April 2017

Academic Editor: Xiaojiang Cui

Copyright © 2017 Pedro M. Aponte and Andrés Caicedo. 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.


Stemness combines the ability of a cell to perpetuate its lineage, to give rise to differentiated cells, and to interact with its environment to maintain a balance between quiescence, proliferation, and regeneration. While adult Stem Cells display these properties when participating in tissue homeostasis, Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs) behave as their malignant equivalents. CSCs display stemness in various circumstances, including the sustaining of cancer progression, and the interaction with their environment in search for key survival factors. As a result, CSCs can recurrently persist after therapy. In order to understand how the concept of stemness applies to cancer, this review will explore properties shared between normal and malignant Stem Cells. First, we provide an overview of properties of normal adult Stem Cells. We thereafter elaborate on how these features operate in CSCs. We then review the organization of microenvironment components, which enables CSCs hosting. We subsequently discuss Mesenchymal Stem/Stromal Cells (MSCs), which, although their stemness properties are limited, represent essential components of the Stem Cell niche and tumor microenvironment. We next provide insights of the therapeutic strategies targeting Stem Cell properties in tumors and the use of state-of-the-art techniques in future research. Increasing our knowledge of the CSCs microenvironment is key to identifying new therapeutic solutions.