Copyright ©The Author(s) 2016. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved.
World J Gastroenterol. Apr 7, 2016; 22(13): 3547-3557
Published online Apr 7, 2016. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v22.i13.3547
Liver cancer stem cell markers: Progression and therapeutic implications
Jing-Hui Sun, Qing Luo, Ling-Ling Liu, Guan-Bin Song
Jing-Hui Sun, Qing Luo, Ling-Ling Liu, Guan-Bin Song, Key Laboratory of Biorheological Science and Technology, Ministry of Education, College of Bioengineering, Chongqing University, Chongqing 400044, China
Author contributions: Sun JH designed the main concepts and wrote, revised the manuscript; Song GB supervised the writing, drafting and critical revision and final approval of the final version; Luo Q and Liu LL provided scientific and technical knowledge.
Supported by The Natural National Science Foundation of China, No. 11272365.
Conflict-of-interest statement: We declare that the authors have no conflict of interest.
Open-Access: This article is an open-access article which was selected by an in-house editor and fully peer-reviewed by external reviewers. It is distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited and the use is non-commercial. See:
Correspondence to: Guan-Bin Song, PhD, Professor of Biomedical Engineering, Key Laboratory of Biorheological Science and Technology, Ministry of Education, College of Bioengineering, Chongqing University, No.174, Shapingba Street, Shapingba District, Chongqing 400044, China.
Telephone: +86-23-65102507 Fax: +86-23-65102507
Received: December 21, 2015
Peer-review started: December 22, 2015
First decision: January 28, 2016
Revised: February 12, 2016
Accepted: March 2, 2016
Article in press: March 2, 2016
Published online: April 7, 2016

Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a small subpopulation in cancer, have been proposed to be cancer-initiating cells, and have been shown to be responsible for chemotherapy resistance and cancer recurrence. The identification of CSC subpopulations inside a tumor presents a new understanding of cancer development because it implies that tumors can only be eradicated by targeting CSCs. Although advances in liver cancer detection and treatment have increased the possibility of curing the disease at early stages, unfortunately, most patients will relapse and succumb to their disease. Strategies aimed at efficiently targeting liver CSCs are becoming important for monitoring the progress of liver cancer therapy and for evaluating new therapeutic approaches. Herein, we provide a critical discussion of biological markers described in the literature regarding liver cancer stem cells and the potential of these markers to serve as therapeutic targets.

Keywords: Liver cancer, Cancer recurrence, Liver cancer stem cells, Cancer stem cell markers, Targeted therapy

Core tip: Liver cancer is the fifth most common cancer and the third leading cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide despite remarkable progress in understanding hepatocarcinogenesis and new therapeutic approaches. Recently, the presence of highly resistant cancer stem cells (CSCs) in liver cancer has been proposed to be responsible for tumor growth, invasion, metastasis and recurrence. CSC involvement in liver cancer pathogenesis also highlights them as preferential targets for therapy. This review specifically focuses on the markers used to define human liver cancer stem cells, the therapeutic implications of the expression of these markers in patient’s primary tumors, and the potential of the markers to serve as therapeutic targets.