The Senescence-Stemness Alliance - a cancer-hijacked regeneration principle


  • M. Milanovic
  • Y. Yu
  • C.A. Schmitt


  • Trends in Cell Biology


  • Trends Cell Biol 28 (12): 1049-1061


  • Activated oncogenes or anticancer therapies evoke senescent cell-cycle arrest in (pre-)malignant cells, thereby interrupting tumor formation or progression. Physiologically, cellular senescence contributes to embryonic development and tissue regeneration. These observations and the overlap of numerous gene products in senescence and stem cell signaling prompted investigations into whether epigenetic establishment of the senescent state may concomitantly reprogram the cell into a latent stem-like condition, whose functional impact becomes evident when arrested cells resume proliferation. We review here recent discoveries underscoring the unexpected senescence-stemness alliance, elucidate underlying molecular mechanisms, and discuss its fundamentally different implications in normal tissue repair - to replenish the exhausted repopulation capacity - as compared to cancer biology, where usurpation of this natural principle accounts for particularly aggressive tumor behavior.