Cancer has been traditionally viewed as a disease characterised by excessive and uncontrolled proliferation, leading to the development of cytotoxic therapies against highly proliferating malignant cells. However, tumours frequently relapse due to the presence of slow-cycling cancer stem cells eluding chemo and radiotherapy. Since these malignant stem cells are largely undifferentiated, inducing their lineage commitment has been proposed as a potential intervention strategy to deplete tumours from their most resistant components. Pro-differentiation approaches have thus far yielded clinical success in the reversion of acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL), and new developments are fast widening their therapeutic applicability to solid carcinomas. Recent advances in cancer differentiation discussed here highlight the potential and outstanding challenges of differentiation-based approaches.

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