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Stem cells and targeted approaches to melanoma cure

George F. Murphy, Brian J. Wilsonb, Sasha D. Girouard, Natasha Y. Frank, Markus H. Frank

Molecular Aspects of Medicine, In Press, October 2013


Melanoma stem cells, also known as malignant melanoma-initiating cells, are identifiable through expression of specific biomarkers such as ABCB5 (ATP-binding cassette, sub-family B (MDR/TAP), member 5), NGFR (nerve growth factor receptor, CD271) and ALDH (aldehyde dehydrogenase), and drive melanoma initiation and progression based on prolonged self-renewal capacity, vasculogenic differentiation and immune evasion. As we will review here, specific roles of these aggressive subpopulations have been documented in tumorigenic growth, metastatic dissemination, therapeutic resistance, and malignant recurrence. Moreover, recent findings have provided pre-clinical proof-of-concept for the potential therapeutic utility of the melanoma stem cell concept. Therefore, melanoma stem cell-directed therapeutic approaches represent promising novel strategies to improve therapy of this arguably most virulent human cancer.