The role of autophagy and lncRNAs in the maintenance of cancer stem cells

Leila Jahangiri, Tala Ishola, Perla Pucci, Ricky M Trigg, Joao Pereira, John A Williams, Megan L Cavanagh, Georgios V Gkoutos, Loukia Tsaprouni, Suzanne D Turner

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Cancer stem cells (CSCs) possess properties such as self-renewal, resistance to apoptotic cues, quiescence, and DNA-damage repair capacity. Moreover, CSCs strongly influence the tumour microenvironment (TME) and may account for cancer progression, recurrence, and relapse. CSCs represent a distinct subpopulation in tumours and the detection, characterisation, and understanding of the regulatory landscape and cellular processes that govern their maintenance may pave the way to improving prognosis, selective targeted therapy, and therapy outcomes. In this review, we have discussed the characteristics of CSCs identified in various cancer types and the role of autophagy and long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) in maintaining the homeostasis of CSCs. Further, we have discussed methods to detect CSCs and strategies for treatment and relapse, taking into account the requirement to inhibit CSC growth and survival within the complex backdrop of cellular processes, microenvironmental interactions, and regulatory networks associated with cancer. Finally, we critique the computationally reinforced triangle of factors inclusive of CSC properties, the process of autophagy, and lncRNA and their associated networks with respect to hypoxia, epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and signalling pathways.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1239
Number of pages30
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
G.V.G. acknowledges support from the NIHR Birmingham ECMC, NIHR Birmingham SRMRC, Nanocommons Horizon 2020-EU (731032), the NIHR Birmingham Biomedical Research Centre, and the MRC HDR UK (HDRUK/CFC/01), an initiative funded by UK Research and Innovation, Department of Health and Social Care (England) and the devolved administrations, and leading medical research charities. The views expressed in this publication are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the National Institute for Health Research, the Medical Research Council, or the Department of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Autophagy
  • Cancer stem cells (CSCs)
  • Haematological malignancies
  • LncRNAs
  • Solid cancers
  • Tumour microenvironment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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