Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) represents the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths and is reported to be resistant to chemotherapy caused by tumor-initiating cells. These tumor-initiating cells express stem cell markers. An accumulation of tumor-initiating cells be found in 28-50% of all HCC and is correlated with a poor prognosis. Mechanisms that mediate chemoresistance include drug export, increased metabolism and quiescence. Importantly, the mechanisms that regulate quiescence in tumor-initiating cells have not been analyzed in detail so far. In the present research we have developed a single cell tracking method to follow up the fate of tumor-initiating cells during chemotherapy. Thereby, we were able to demonstrate that mCXCL1 exerts cellular state specific effects regulating the resistance to chemotherapeutics. mCXCL1 is the mouse homolog of the human Interleukin 8, a chemokine which correlates with poor prognosis in HCC patients. We found that mCXCL1 blocks differentiationof premalignant cells and activates quiescence in tumor-initiating cells. This process depends on the activation of the mTORC1 kinase. Blocking of the mTORC1 kinase induces differentiation of tumor-initiating cells and allows their subsequent depletion using the chemotherapeutic drug doxorubicin. Our work deciphers the mCXCL1-mTORC1 pathway as crucial in liver cancer stem cell maintenance and highlights it as a novel target in combination with conventional chemotherapy.