Lung cancer remains a major cause of cancer-related lethality because of high incidence and recurrence in spite of significant advances in staging and therapies. Recent data indicates that stem cells situated throughout the airways may initiate cancer formation. These putative stem cells maintain protumorigenic characteristics including high proliferative capacity, multipotent differentiation, drug resistance and long lifespan relative to other cells. Stem cell signalling and differentiation pathways are maintained within distinct cancer types, and destabilization of this machinery may participate in maintenance of cancer stem cells. Characterization of lung cancer stem cells is an area of active research and is critical for developing novel therapies. This review summarizes the current knowledge on stem cell signalling pathways and cell markers used to identify the lung cancer stem cells.