Cancer stem cells are a group of cells that can be found within tumors and can create cancerous growth. Part of their characteristics includes renewing themselves without external help and differentiating into different cell types. Because they can reproduce and ensure that cancerous growth is in a body, cancer stem cells are the primary promoter of cancerous growths.

This means you must target these cancer stem cells during cancer treatments so that the body will be completely free from cancerous growths. Types of cancers where cancer stem cells have been identified in the past include:

  • Brain cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colon cancer
  • Prostate cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Leukemia
  • Skin cancer
  • Melanoma
  • Multiple myeloma

Because research on cancer stem cells is still ongoing, we are sure that many more discoveries will be made. 

Frontiers | Meeting the Challenge of Targeting Cancer Stem Cells | Cell and  Developmental Biology

Cancer Stem Cells: What is it?

According to the cancer stem cells theory, it is believed that cancer stem cells cause cancerous growths and might be why cancer is resistant to treatments and keeps spreading. Even though many biomedical types of research are being carried out to determine the existence of cancer stem cells and prove the theory above, only half of the scientists believe the cancer stem cells theory and supported it.

In research that was carried out to show that stem cells do not respond to cancer treatments, a stem cell marker antibody was used to identify cancer stem cells. At the close of the research, it was believed that stem cells resist cancer treatments and are the reason for cancer’s sustenance in the body. Interestingly cancer stem cells possess the same properties as normal stem cells, and they are:

  • Self-renewal: Cancer stem cells can divide themselves into more cancer stem cells, which causes them to reproduce and keep recurring in the body.
  • Cell differentiation: Cancer stem cells can differentiate themselves into different cell types. Sometimes, they can change from a less differentiated to a more differentiated cell type.

How do Cancer Stem Cells Influence Cancer Growth?

It is believed that cancer stem cells help store cancerous growths, which is why cancer may return even after treatments have eliminated all cancerous growths in the body. If cancer stem cells are identified in cancerous growth, it is advised that it should be targeted and dealt with to prevent another tumor from recurring even after effective treatment.

Cancer stem cell - Wikipedia

Do Cancer Stem Cells Resist Chemotherapy?

Because cancer stem cells can differentiate into different cell types, they may cause varying tumors in the body. They are said to resist chemotherapy because of their special cell differentiation ability. When cancer stem cells resist chemotherapy, they cause cancerous growths to increase in size and keep recurring. More research should be carried out on cancer stem cells to have an advantage over the different types of cancer.

Is Cancer Stem Cells Research Important?

Cancer stem cells research is important because it deals with the potential source of cancerous growths and may help develop even more effective cancer treatments. Interestingly, when cancer stem cells are targeted during treatments, it will reduce the side effects of cancer treatments because it won’t affect other cells in the body. 

Differences between cancer stem cells and normal cells

There are many differences between cancer stem cells and normal cells.  Some of these differences have been discussed below.

Cancer Cell: Cell Press


When cells are needed to perform a specific function, normal cells stop producing immediately after the function has been performed. On the other hand, cancer stem cells keep growing even when there is no need for them. When there are many cancer stem cells, they begin to form clusters which result in tumors. 


While normal cells interact with other cells in the body, cancer stem cells do not. Normal cells receive instructions in the form of signals from other cells and act on them. For example, normal cells may receive a signal to grow or stop growing.

Ability to Spread

Normal cells are always found in their region. For example, throat cells are found in the throat, and stomach cells are found in the stomach. Cancer stem cells, however, can spread all over the body. This is because they do not possess stickiness, which will glue them to a particular region. Interestingly, they begin to grow in size immediately they get to a new region.


Cancer stem cells research may provide the breakthrough that is needed in the therapeutic cancer field. However, this is a future goal; at this point, the most important focus is for more research to be made to prove the cancer stem cells theory. Besides the hope for a solution to cancer in all forms, the research will help create new treatments with fewer side effects while improving old cancer cells. If this can be achived, then a great deal of success will be achievable for cancer patients undergoing treatment.



Manisha has always been passionate about writing. She has written her poems, short stories, and articles since her school days. In her professional life, she has worked as a journalist since 2011. Her passion for writing led her to write her debut book, Unhappy Marriage, which gained her many accolades. She currently lives in India.