Affiliation: Enders Research Building Room 816, 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA. 02115, USA.
Cancer stem cells (CSCs), also known as tumor-initiating cells, have been identified in several human malignancies, including human malignant melanoma. The frequency of malignant melanoma-initiating cells (MMICs), which are identified by their expression of ATP-binding cassette (ABC) family member ABCB5, correlates with disease progression in human patients. Furthermore, targeted MMIC ablation through ABCB5 inhibits tumor initiation and growth in preclinical xenotransplantation models, pointing to potential therapeutic promise of the CSC concept. Recent advances also show that CSCs can exert pro-angiogenic roles in tumor growth and serve immunomodulatory functions related to the evasion of host anti-tumor immunity. Thus, MMICs might initiate and sustain tumorigenic growth not only as a result of CSC-intrinsic self-renewal, differentiation and proliferative capacity, but also based on pro-tumorigenic interactions with the host environment.