It is thought that, although cancer stem cells are a small minority in the tumor cell population, they can escape the toxicity of drugs used for treatment, as they are relatively quiescent, i.e. chemotherapy can lead effectively to remission, but not frequently to a cure. An important question that cannot be answered at present and should certainly be addressed is whether a therapeutic window can be identified from the differences between normal cells, including normal stem cells, and cancer stem cells. The proposed work is a first step towards addressing this crucial question by examining in the context of mouse models of mammary tumorigenesis the relationship between putative normal and cancer stem cells and comparing their expression profiles with a long-term goal of eventually identifying advantageous drug-targets for therapeutic intervention to treat breast cancer. The use of stemness signatures for treatment purposes may find additional applications in the cases of cancers at other anatomical sites.
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