Predominant factors influencing reactive oxygen species in cancer stem cells

Loshini Soundararajan, Sudha Warrier, Arun Dharmarajan, Natarajan Bhaskaran

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Reactive oxygen species (ROS) and its related signaling pathways and regulating molecules play a major role in the growth and development of cancer stem cells. The concept of ROS and cancer stem cells (CSCs) has been gaining much attention since the past decade and the evidence show that these CSCs possess robust self-renewal and tumorigenic potential and are resistant to conventional chemo- and radiotherapy and believed to be responsible for tumor progression, metastasis, and recurrence. It seems reasonable to say that cancer can be cured only if the CSCs are eradicated. ROS are Janus-faced molecules that can regulate cellular physiology as well as induce cytotoxicity, depending on the magnitude, duration, and site of generation. Unlike normal cancer cells, CSCs expel ROS efficiently by upregulating ROS scavengers. This unique redox regulation in CSCs protects them from ROS-mediated cell death and nullifies the effect of radiation, leading to chemoresistance and radioresistance. However, how these CSCs control ROS production by scavenging free radicals and how they maintain low levels of ROS is a challenging to understand and these attributes make CSCs as prime therapeutic targets. Here, we summarize the mechanisms of redox regulation in CSCs, with a focus on therapy resistance, its various pathways and microRNAs regulation, and the potential therapeutic implications of manipulating the ROS levels to eradicate CSCs. A better understanding of these molecules, their interactions in the CSCs may help us to adopt proper control and treatment measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-21
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Cellular Biochemistry
Issue number1
Early online date24 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


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