Renal cell carcinoma (RCC) is an intractable genitourinary malignancy that accounts for approximately
4% of adult malignancies. Currently, there is no approved targeted therapy for RCC that has yielded durable
remissions, and they remain palliative in intent. Emerging evidence has indicated that renal tumorigenesis and
RCC treatment-resistance may originate from renal cancer stem cells (CSCs) with tumor-initiating capacity (CSC
hypothesis). A better understanding of the mechanism underlying renal CSCs will help to dissect RCC heterogeneity
and drug treatment efficiency, to promote more personalized and targeted therapies. In this review, we
summarized the stem cell characteristics of renal CSCs. We outlined the targeting strategies and challenges associated
with developing therapies that target renal CSCs angiogenesis, immunosuppression, signaling pathways,
surface biomarkers, microRNAs and nanomedicine. In conclusion, CSCs are an important role in renal carcinogenesis
and represent a valid target for treatment of RCC patients.
Keywords: Renal cell carcinoma, renal cancer stem cells, signal pathways, biomarkers, targeting strategy, microRNAs.
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