1. Department of Pharmacology and Physiology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, PA 19102, USA.
2. Present Address: Janssen Oncology, Spring House, PA, USA.
3. Present address: Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.
4. Program in Immune Cell Regulation & Targeting, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA
5. Program in Translational and Cellular Oncology, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, PA 19107, USA.
#Equal contributions to this work.
Tumor-initiating cells (TICs) are a rare sub-population of cells within the bulk of a tumor that are major contributors to tumor initiation, metastasis, and chemoresistance. TICs have a stem-cell-like phenotype that is dictated by the expression of master regulator transcription factors, including OCT4, NANOG, and SOX2. These transcription factors are expressed via activation of multiple signaling pathways that drive cancer initiation and progression. Importantly, these same signaling pathways can be activated by select chemokine receptors. Chemokine receptors are increasingly being revealed as major drivers of the TIC phenotype, as their signaling can lead to activation of stemness-controlling transcription factors. Additionally, the cell surface expression of chemokine receptors provides a unique therapeutic target to disrupt signaling pathways that control the expression of master regulator transcription factors and the TIC phenotype. This review summarizes the master regulator transcription factors known to dictate the TIC phenotype, along with the complex signaling pathways that can mediate their expression and the chemokine receptors that are most upstream of this phenotype.
Keywords: Chemokines, Initiation, Metastasis, Pluripotency