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Breast cancer adaptive resistance: HER2 and cancer stem cell repopulation in a heterogeneous tumor society



The lethal effects of cancer are associated with the enhanced tumor aggressiveness in recurrent and metastatic lesions that show resistant phenotype to anti-cancer therapy, a major barrier to improving overall survival of cancer patients. The presence of heterogeneous populations of cancer cells within a specific tumor including the tumor-initiating cells or so-called cancer stem cells (CSCs) has linked the acquired resistance (AR, or adaptive resistance). Herein, we discuss the CSC-mediated tumor repopulation in AR of breast cancer in this review.


We emphasize a dynamic feature of gene induction in tumor cells that undergo long-term treatment, and describe a specific HER2-NF-κB-HER2 pro-survival pathway that can be initiated in breast CSCs upon radiation therapy.


Elucidation of HER2-induced pro-survival networks, specifically the force driving tumor repopulation due to radioresistant CSCs during anticancer therapies, will have a significant impact on the generation of new diagnostic and therapeutic targets to control of recurrent and metastatic breast tumors.

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