Notch signalling in cancer stem cells
A new theory about the development of solid tumours is emerging from the idea that solid tumours, like normal adult tissues, contain stem cells (called cancer stem cells) and arise from them. Genetic mutations encoding for proteins involved in critical signalling pathways for stem cells such as BMP, Notch, Hedgehog and Wnt would allow stem cells to undergo uncontrolled proliferation and form tumours. Taking into account that cancer stem cells (CSCs) would represent the real driving force behind tumour growth and that they may be drug resistant, new agents that target the above signalling pathways could be more effective than current anti-solid tumour therapies. In the present paper we will review the molecular basis of the Notch signalling pathway. Additionally, we will pay attention to their role in adult stem cell self-renewal, and cell fate specification and differentiation, and we will also review evidence that supports their implication in cancer.