Purpose of Review
This review will discuss how the steroid hormones, estrogen and progesterone, as well as treatments that target steroid receptors, can regulate cancer stem cell (CSC) activity. The CSC theory proposes a hierarchical organization in tumors where at its apex lies a subpopulation of cancer cells endowed with self-renewal and differentiation capacity.
In breast cancer (BC), CSCs have been suggested to play a key role in tumor maintenance, disease progression, and the formation of metastases. In preclinical models of BC, only a few CSCs are required sustain tumor re-growth, especially after conventional anti-endocrine treatments. CSCs include therapy-resistant clones that survive standard of care treatments like chemotherapy, irradiation, and hormonal therapy.
The relevance of hormones for both normal mammary gland and BC development is well described, but it was only recently that the activities of hormones on CSCs have been investigated, opening new directions for future BC treatments and CSCs.