Extracellular vesicles–vehicles that spread cancer genes

PMID: 22442051
Journal: BioEssays : news and reviews in molecular, cellular and developmental biology (volume: 34, issue: 6, Bioessays 2012 Jun;34(6):489-97)
Published: 2012-03-22

Rak J, Guha A


Once regarded as cellular ‚debris‘ extracellular vesicles (EVs) emerge as one of the most intriguing entities in cancer pathogenesis. Intercellular trafficking of EVs challenges the notion of cancer cell autonomy, and highlights the multicellular nature of such fundamental processes as stem cell niche formation, tumour stroma generation, angiogenesis, inflammation or immunity. Recent studies reveal that intercellular exchange mediated by EVs runs deeper than expected, and includes molecules causative for cancer progression, such as oncogenes (epidermal growth factor receptor, Ras), and tumour suppressors (PTEN). The uptake of oncogenic EVs (oncosomes) by various cells may profoundly change their biology, signalling patterns and gene expression, and in some cases cause their overt tumorigenic conversion. Moreover, EVs circulating in blood and present in body fluids provide an unprecedented access to the molecular circuitry driving cancer cells, and new technologies are being developed to exploit this property as a source of unique cancer biomarkers.