Lessons from development: A role for asymmetric stem cell division in cancer

Anne E. Powell, Chia Yi Shung, Katherine W. Saylor, Karin A. Müllendorf, Joseph B. Weiss, Melissa H. Wong

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Asymmetric stem cell division has emerged as a major regulatory mechanism for physiologic control of stem cell numbers. Reinvigoration of the cancer stem cell theory suggests that tumorigenesis may be regulated by maintaining the balance between asymmetric and symmetric cell division. Therefore, mutations affecting this balance could result in aberrant expansion of stem cells. Although a number of molecules have been implicated in regulation of asymmetric stem cell division, here, we highlight known tumor suppressors with established roles in this process. While a subset of these tumor suppressors were originally defined in developmental contexts, recent investigations reveal they are also lost or mutated in human cancers. Mutations in tumor suppressors involved in asymmetric stem cell division provide mechanisms by which cancer stem cells can hyperproliferate and offer an intriguing new focus for understanding cancer biology. Our discussion of this emerging research area derives insight from a frontier area of basic science and links these discoveries to human tumorigenesis. This highlights an important new focus for understanding the mechanism underlying expansion of cancer stem cells in driving tumorigenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3-9
Number of pages7
JournalStem Cell Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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