Regulation of cancer stem cells by cytokine networks: Attacking cancer's inflammatory roots

Hasan Korkaya, Suling Liu, Max S. Wicha

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

260 Scopus citations


There is substantial evidence that many human cancers are driven by a subpopulation of cells that display stem cell properties. These cancer stem cells (CSC) may also contribute to metastasis and treatment resistance. Furthermore, just as normal stem cells are regulated by their microenvironment, or niche, CSCs interact with and in turn are regulated by cells in the tumor microenvironment. These interactions involve inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-1, IL-6, and IL-8, which in turn activate Stat3/NF-κB pathways in both tumor and stromal cells. Activation of these pathways stimulates further cytokine production, generating positive feedback loops that in turn drive CSC self-renewal. These cytokine loops and the pathways they regulate resemble those activated during chronic inflammation and wound healing, and may contribute to the known link between inflammation and cancer. Inhibitors of these cytokines and their receptors have been developed as anti-inflammatory agents. By blocking signals from the tumor microenvironment, these agents have the potential to target CSCs. Future clinical trials using these compounds will be needed to determine whether targeting the CSC population has clinical benefit.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6125-6128
Number of pages4
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 1 2011
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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