Epithelial carcinogenesis is a multistep process. Transmission from normal oral epithelium to oral dysplasia and cancer is believed to result from several genetic alterations. Despite recent advances in the treatment approaches over the last decades, the mortality and morbidity rate of patients with oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC) has not been markedly improved. A small subset of cells, cancer stem cells (CSCs) with self-renewal properties, is a major focus of the current research. Here, we present a review of CSCs and their role in oral premalignant and malignant lesions, offering an insight into the stem cell markers, their putative role, and the means of targeting them in treatments.
Evidence Acquisition: Using the main keywords of “cancer stem cell”, “oral squamous cell carcinoma”, and “cancer stem cell marker”, a comprehensive search was done among several research databases.
Accumulating evidence supports the existence of CSCs as small subpopulations in OSCC, which are associated with tumor progression and therapy resistance. A number of cell surface markers have been used to identify these cells by various studies. Therefore, identifying a reliable CSC marker that is associated with OSCC seems to be necessary.
The identification of the mechanisms underlying oral cancer initiation and progression is of the utmost importance. CSC markers that could act as a therapeutic target could play an important role in the effective treatment strategies of OSCC.