Natural Products That Target Cancer Stem Cells

November 9, 2015 -

The cancer stem cell model suggests that tumor initiation is governed by a small subset of distinct cells with stem-like character termed cancer stem cells (CSCs). CSCs possess properties of self-renewal and intrinsic survival mechanisms that contribute to resistance of tumors to most chemotherapeutic drugs.

The failure to eradicate CSCs during the course of therapy is postulated to be the driving force for tumor recurrence and metastasis. Recent studies have focused on understanding the unique phenotypic properties of CSCs from various tumor types, as well as the signaling pathways that underlie self-renewal and drug resistance.

Natural products (NPs) such as those derived from botanicals and food sources may modulate vital signaling pathways involved in the maintenance of CSC phenotype. The Wingless/Integrated (WNT), Hedgehog, Notch and PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathways have all been associated with quiescence and self-renewal of CSCs, as well as execution of CSC function including differentiation, multi-drug resistance and metastasis.

Recent studies evaluating NPs against CSC support the epidemiological evidence linking plant-based diets with reduced malignancy rates. This review covers the key aspects of NPs as modulators of CSC fate.

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