Tumor-secreted extracellular vesicles (EVs) are the main mediators of cell-cell communication, permitting cells to exchange proteins, lipids, and metabolites in varying physiological and pathological conditions. They contain signature tumor-derived molecules that reflect the intracellular status of their cell of origin. Recent studies have shown that tumor cell-derived EVs can aid in cancer metastasis through the modulation of the tumor microenvironment, suppression of the immune system, pre-metastatic niche formation, and subsequent metastasis. EVs can easily be isolated from a variety of biological fluids, and their content makes them useful biomarkers for the diagnosis, prognosis, monitorization of cancer progression, and response to treatment. A team led by researchers at the University of Palermo explores the biomarkers of cancer cell-derived EVs obtained from liquid biopsies, in order to understand cancer progression and metastatic evolution for early diagnosis and precision therapy.
Schematic illustration of EV-mediated interactions between cancer cells and their TME
In cancer, EVs are involved in the process of transporting bioactive molecules between stromal and transformed cells, including endothelial, mesenchymal, immune, and CAF cells. Several subtypes of immune cells can also be found in the TME, including dendritic cells (DCs), B and T lymphocytes, and macrophages. EVs released within TME contribute to TME heterogeneity by creating a suitable environment for tumor growth, progression, and metastasis. EVs derived from immune cells which exhibit anti-cancer activity are an exception.