Emerging Role of Glioma Stem Cells in Mechanisms of Therapy Resistance

Frank Eckerdt*, Leonidas C. Platanias

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Since their discovery at the beginning of this millennium, glioma stem cells (GSCs) have sparked extensive research and an energetic scientific debate about their contribution to glioblastoma (GBM) initiation, progression, relapse, and resistance. Different molecular subtypes of GBM coexist within the same tumor, and they display differential sensitivity to chemotherapy. GSCs contribute to tumor heterogeneity and recapitulate pathway alterations described for the three GBM subtypes found in patients. GSCs show a high degree of plasticity, allowing for interconversion between different molecular GBM subtypes, with distinct proliferative potential, and different degrees of self-renewal and differentiation. This high degree of plasticity permits adaptation to the environmental changes introduced by chemo- and radiation therapy. Evidence from mouse models indicates that GSCs repopulate brain tumors after therapeutic intervention, and due to GSC plasticity, they reconstitute heterogeneity in recurrent tumors. GSCs are also inherently resilient to standard-of-care therapy, and mechanisms of resistance include enhanced DNA damage repair, MGMT promoter demethylation, autophagy, impaired induction of apoptosis, metabolic adaptation, chemoresistance, and immune evasion. The remarkable oncogenic properties of GSCs have inspired considerable interest in better understanding GSC biology and functions, as they might represent attractive targets to advance the currently limited therapeutic options for GBM patients. This has raised expectations for the development of novel targeted therapeutic approaches, including targeting GSC plasticity, chimeric antigen receptor T (CAR T) cells, and oncolytic viruses. In this review, we focus on the role of GSCs as drivers of GBM and therapy resistance, and we discuss how insights into GSC biology and plasticity might advance GSC-directed curative approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number3458
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 2023


  • glioblastoma
  • glioma stem cells
  • heterogeneity
  • immune checkpoint
  • plasticity
  • therapy resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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