Cancer Stem Cells in Pheochromocytoma and Paraganglioma

Laura D. Scriba, Stefan R. Bornstein, Alice Santambrogio, Gregor Mueller, Angela Huebner, Julia Hauer, Andreas Schedl, Ben Wielockx, Graeme Eisenhofer, Cynthia L. Andoniadou, Charlotte Steenblock

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Pheochromocytoma (PCC) and paraganglioma (PGL) are rare neuroendocrine tumors associated with high cardiovascular morbidity and variable risk of malignancy. The current therapy of choice is surgical resection. Nevertheless, PCCs/PGLs are associated with a lifelong risk of tumor persistence or recurrence. A high rate of germline or somatic mutations in numerous genes has been found in these tumors. For some, the tumorigenic processes are initiated during embryogenesis. Such tumors carry gene mutations leading to pseudohypoxic phenotypes and show more immature characteristics than other chromaffin cell tumors; they are also often multifocal or metastatic and occur at an early age, often during childhood. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are cells with an inherent ability of self-renewal, de-differentiation, and capacity to initiate and maintain malignant tumor growth. Targeting CSCs to inhibit cancer progression has become an attractive anti-cancer therapeutic strategy. Despite progress for this strategy for solid tumors such as neuroblastoma, brain, breast, and colon cancers, no substantial advance has been made employing similar strategies in PCCs/PGLs. In the current review, we discuss findings related to the identification of normal chromaffin stem cells and CSCs, pathways involved in regulating the development of CSCs, and the importance of the stem cell niche in development and maintenance of CSCs in PCCs/PGLs. Additionally, we examine the development and feasibility of novel CSC-targeted therapeutic strategies aimed at eradicating especially recurrent and metastatic tumors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number79
JournalFrontiers in Endocrinology
StatePublished - 25 Feb 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • adrenal
  • cancer stem cells
  • hypoxia
  • paraganglioma
  • pheochromocytoma


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