Cancer Stemness Meets Immunity: From Mechanism to Therapy

Peiwen Chen, Wen Hao Hsu, Jincheng Han, Yan Xia, Ronald A. DePinho*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

83 Scopus citations


Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are self-renewing cells that facilitate tumor initiation, promote metastasis, and enhance cancer therapy resistance. Transcriptomic analyses across many cancer types have revealed a prominent association between stemness and immune signatures, potentially implying a biological interaction between such hallmark features of cancer. Emerging experimental evidence has substantiated the influence of CSCs on immune cells, including tumor-associated macrophages, myeloid-derived suppressor cells, and T cells, in the tumor microenvironment and, reciprocally, the importance of such immune cells in sustaining CSC stemness and its survival niche. This review covers the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the symbiotic interactions between CSCs and immune cells and how such heterotypic signaling maintains a tumor-promoting ecosystem and informs therapeutic strategies intercepting this co-dependency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108597
JournalCell reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 5 2021


  • T cells
  • cancer stem cell
  • immunity
  • immunotherapy
  • myeloid-derived suppressor cells
  • stemness
  • symbiotic interaction
  • tumor-associated macrophages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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