Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a small population of cells in cancer with stem-like properties such as cell proliferation, multiple differentiation and tumor initiation capacities. CSCs are therapy-resistant and cause cancer metastasis and recurrence. One key issue in cancer therapy is how to target and eliminate CSCs, in order to cure cancer completely without relapse and metastasis. To target CSCs, many cell surface markers, DNAs and microRNAs are considered as CSC markers. To date, the majority of the reported markers are not very specific to CSCs and are also present in non- CSCs. However, the combination of several markers is quite valuable for identifying and targeting CSCs, although more specific identification methods are needed. While CSCs are considered as critical therapeutic targets, useful treatment methods remain to be established. Epigenetic gene regulators, microRNAs, are associated with tumor initiation and progression. MicroRNAs have been recently considered as promising therapeutic targets, which can alter the therapeutic resistance of CSCs through epigenetic modification. Moreover, carbon ion beam radiotherapy is a promising treatment for CSCs. Evidence indicates that the carbon ion beam is more effective against CSCs than the conventional X-ray beam. Combination therapies of radiosensitizing microRNAs and carbon ion beam radiotherapy may be a promising cancer strategy. This review focuses on the identification and treatment resistance of CSCs and the potential of microRNAs as new radiosensitizers and carbon ion beam radiotherapy as a promising therapeutic strategy against CSCs.
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