Sridharan, Sangita; Howard, Cory M; Tilley, Augustus M C; Subramaniyan, Boopathi; Tiwari, Amit K; Ruch, Randall J; Raman, Dayanidhi
Breast cancer stem cells (BCSCs) play a vital role in tumor progression and metastasis. They are heterogeneous and inherently radio- and chemoresistant. They have the ability to self-renew and differentiate into non-BCSCs. These determinants of BCSCs including the plasticity between the mesenchymal and epithelial phenotypes often leads to minimal residual disease (MRD), tumor relapse, and therapy failure. By studying the resistance mechanisms in BCSCs, a combinatorial therapy can be formulated to co-target BCSCs and bulk tumor cells. This review addresses breast cancer stemness and molecular underpinnings of how the cancer stemness can lead to pharmacological resistance. This might occur through rewiring of signaling pathways and modulated expression of various targets that support survival and self-renewal, clonogenicity, and multi-lineage differentiation into heterogeneous bulk tumor cells following chemotherapy. We explore emerging novel and alternative molecular targets against BC stemness and chemoresistance involving survival, drug efflux, metabolism, proliferation, cell migration, invasion, and metastasis. Strategic targeting of such vulnerabilities in BCSCs may overcome the chemoresistance and increase the longevity of the metastatic breast cancer patients.