Breast cancer heterogeneity: Need to review current treatment strategies

Fayaz Malik, Hasan Korkaya, Shawn G. Clouthier, Max S. Wicha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Although the heterogeneity of breast cancer has long been recognized, the hierarchical organization and existence of tumor initiating subpopulation within breast tumors was not known until the last decade. These tumor initiating cells called cancer stem cells (CSCs) display features of stem cells such as unlimited ability to self-renew and lineage differentiation. Accumulating evidence now suggests that by virtue of their relative resistance to both radiation and chemotherapy, these cells contribute to resistance and relapse following therapy. Utilizing cell cultures and mouse xenograft models, we and others demonstrated that breast CSCs have far greater invasive and metastatic potential than differentiated tumor cells which comprise the tumor bulk. Altogether, these studies suggest that targeting and elimination of breast CSCs may be required to improve patient outcome. In this review, we will discuss recent developments in breast CSC research and advances in CSC specific targeted therapies that are in preclinical and clinical trials.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)225-231
Number of pages7
JournalCurrent Breast Cancer Reports
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Breast cancer
  • Breast cancer subtypes
  • Cancer stem cells
  • Circulating tumor cells
  • Drug resistance
  • HER2
  • Luminal
  • Metastasis
  • Trastazumab
  • Tumor heterogeneity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology


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