Cancer is a disease where there is aberrant cellular behaviour characterized by uncontrolled growth and cellular signalling. Cancer though is viewed as a homogeneous pathology, does not show uniformity at the cellular level - there is difference in the characteristics within cells of a tumour. A major caveat in understanding the biology of cancer is the paucity of information on the origin and perpetuation of cancers. Towards salvaging these two models of cancer genesis and progression have been proposed: ‘Stochastic’ and ‘Cancer stem cell’ theories. The stochastic model holds that all cells in a tumour are identical while the cancer stem cell theory supports the existence of a subset of cells called cancer stem cells in a tumour that are responsible for the origin and perpetuation of the disease. Cancer stem cells are implicated in various aspects of cancer including metastasis, recurrence and therapeutic resistance. Though cancer stem cells have been reported from many cancers methods to identify and characterize them still rely on animal transplantation models along with surface protein studies. However better techniques of characterization of these cells would play a positive role in elucidating these cells better. The characterization of cancer stem cells would play an important role in the research and clinical management of the disease.
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