Until now, researchers have assumed that the growth of solid tumours originates from cancer stem cells characterised by specific surface markers, which develop in a fixed, hierarchical order. Accordingly, such cancer stem cells are responsible for tumour progression and produce specific types of more differentiated cancer cells whose fates are predetermined. In a joint interdisciplinary project, we now show that cancer cells of glioblastomas – conspicuously aggressive solid brain tumours – manifest developmental plasticity and their phenotypic characteristics are less constrained than believed.

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Dirkse A*, Golebiewska A*, Buder T, Nazarov P, Muller A, Poovathingal S, Brons NHC, Leite S, Sauvageot N, Sakrisijan D, Seyfried M, Fritah S, Stieber D, Michelucci A, Hertel F, Herold-Mende C, Azuaje F, Skupin A, Bjerkvig R, Deutsch A, Voss-Bohme A, Niclou SP. Stem cell-associated heterogeneity in glioblastoma results from intrinsic tumor plasticity shaped by the microenvironment, Nature Communications, 2019 Apr 16;10(1):1787; Pubmed