Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are undifferentiated cancer cells with a high tumorigenic activity, the ability to undergo self-renewal, and a multilineage differentiation potential. Cancer stem cells are responsible for the development of tumor cell heterogeneity, a key feature for resistance to anticancer treatments including conventional chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and molecularly targeted therapy. Furthermore, minimal residual disease, the major cause of cancer recurrence and metastasis, is enriched in CSCs. Cancer stem cells also possess the property of "robustness", which encompasses several characteristics including a slow cell cycle, the ability to detoxify or mediate the efflux of cytotoxic agents, resistance to oxidative stress, and a rapid response to DNA damage, all of which contribute to the development of therapeutic resistance. The identification of mechanisms underlying such characteristics and the development of novel approaches to target them will be required for the therapeutic elimination of CSCs and the complete eradication of tumors. In this review, we focus on two prospective therapeutic approaches that target CSCs with the aim of disrupting their quiescence or redox defense capability.
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