Complexity in cancer stem cells and tumor evolution: Toward precision medicine

Caterina A M La Porta*, Stefano Zapperi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


In this review, we discuss recent advances on the plasticity of cancer stem cells and highlight their relevance to understand the metastatic process and to guide therapeutic interventions. Recent results suggest that the strict hierarchical structure of cancer cell populations advocated by the cancer stem cell model must be reconsidered since the depletion of cancer stem cells leads the other tumor cells to switch back into the cancer stem cell phenotype. This plasticity has important implications for metastasis since migrating cells do not need to be cancer stem cells in order to seed a metastasis. We also discuss the important role of the immune system and the microenvironment in modulating phenotypic switching and suggest possible avenues to exploit our understanding of this process to develop an effective strategy for precision medicine.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-9
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Cancer stem cells
  • Metastasis
  • Phenotypic switching
  • Precision medicine


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