Accumulating evidences indicate that many tumors rely on subpopulations of cancer stem cells (CSCs) with the ability to propagate malignant clones indefinitely and to produce an overt cancer. Of importance, CSCs seem to be more resistant to the conventional cytotoxic treatments, driving tumor growth and contributing to relapse. CSCs can originate from normal committed cells which undergo tumor-reprogramming processes and reacquire a stem cell-like phenotype. Increasing evidences also show how tumor homeostasis and progression strongly rely on the capacity of nontumorigenic cancer cells to dedifferentiate to CSCs. Both tumor microenvironment and epigenetic reprogramming drive such dynamic mechanisms, favoring cancer cell plasticity and tumor heterogeneity. Here, we report new developments which led to an advancement in the CSC field, elucidating the concepts of cancer cell of origin and CSC plasticity in solid tumor initiation and maintenance. We further discuss the main signaling pathways which, under the influence of extrinsic environmental factors, play a critical role in the formation and maintenance of CSCs. Moreover, we propose a review of the main epigenetic mechanisms whose deregulation can favor the onset of CSC features both in tumor initiation and tumor maintenance. Finally, we provide an update of the main strategies that could be applied to target CSCs and cancer cell plasticity.