Increased evidence shows that normal stem cells may contribute to cancer development and progression by acting as cancer-initiating cells through their interactions with abnormal environmental elements. We postulate that normal stem cells and cancer stem cells (CSC) possess similar mechanisms of self-renewal and differentiation. CSC can be the key to the elaboration of anti-cancer-based therapy. In this article, we focus on a controversial new theme relating to CSC. Tumorigenesis may have a critical stage characterized as a "therapeutic window", which can be identified by association of molecular, biochemical and biological events. Identifying such a stage can allow the production of more effective therapies (e.g. manipulated stem cells) to treat several cancers. More importantly, confirming the existence of a similar therapeutic window during the conversion of normal stem cells to malignant CSC may lead to targeted therapy specifically against CSC. This conversion information may be derived from investigating the biological behaviour of both normal stem cells and cancerous stem cells. Currently, there is little knowledge about the cellular and molecular mechanisms that govern the initiation and maintenance of CSC. Studies on co-evolution and interdependence of cancer with normal tissues may lead to a useful treatment paradigm of cancer. The crosstalk between normal stem cells and cancer formation may converge developmental stages of different types of stem cells (e.g. normal stem cells, CSC and embryonic stem cells). The differential studies of the convergence may result in novel therapies for treating cancers.
The article is published online in the World Journal of Stem Cells and is free to access.