Normal somatic stem cells (SC) are naturally resistant to chemotherapeutic agents due to their expression of various membrane transporter molecules (such as MDR-1), detoxifying enzymes and DNA repair proteins. In addition, they also have a slow rate of cell turnover and therefore escape from chemotherapeutic agents that target rapidly replicating cells. Cancer stem cells (CSC), being the mutated counterparts of normal SC, also have similar properties, which allow them to survive therapy. These surviving CSC then repopulate the tumor, causing relapse. The purpose of this review is to understand the most current research into the cellular and molecular biology of CSC. Topics that will be explored are the origin of CSC, the CSC niche, the regulation of self-renewal in normal and cancer SC, and CSC as therapeutic targets.