Diagnostic potential of exosomal extracellular vesicles in oncology

Cancer remains one of the most challenging diseases to diagnose and treat effectively. Traditionally, tumor biopsies have been the primary method for diagnosing cancer and monitoring its progression. However, recent advancements in liquid biopsy techniques have revolutionized cancer diagnostics by enabling the detection of circulating cancer cells and tumor-derived DNA in bodily fluids such as blood and urine. Among the components of these liquid biopsies are extracellular vesicles (EVs), which play crucial roles in cancer pathology.

Tumor-derived exosomes (TEX) migration into the bloodstream. Cancer cells release large quantities of exosomes. In the extracellular environment, TEXs outnumber their normal exosome counterparts. These TEXs can be detected in the bloodstream or other bodily fluids.

Understanding Extracellular Vesicles

Extracellular vesicles encompass various types, including apoptotic bodies, microvesicles, exomeres, and exosomes. Among these, exosomes are of particular interest in cancer research due to their ability to carry proteins and nucleic acids, such as DNA and RNA, that can modify the tumor microenvironment and promote cancer progression. These tiny vesicles are released by cancer cells and can be detected in the bloodstream, making them valuable biomarkers for cancer detection and prognosis.

Exploring EV Biomarkers in Cancer

Researchers at Florida International University examined the potential of EV biomolecules as diagnostic and prognostic markers for various types of cancer, including melanoma, glioma, breast, pancreatic, hepatic, cervical, prostate, colon, and certain hematological malignancies. The researchers highlighted the diverse range of proteins and microRNAs found within EVs that have shown promise as biomarkers for cancer detection and prognosis. By analyzing the molecular contents of EVs, researchers can gain insights into the underlying mechanisms of cancer development and identify novel therapeutic targets.

Clinical Implications

The discovery of EV biomarkers represents a significant advancement in cancer diagnostics and therapeutics. Liquid biopsy, which involves the analysis of EVs in bodily fluids, offers a non-invasive and easily accessible method for detecting cancer at various stages. This is particularly advantageous in cancers like pancreatic adenocarcinoma, where obtaining tissue biopsies can be challenging. Additionally, liquid biopsy allows for regular monitoring of cancer progression, facilitating early detection of recurrence or treatment response assessment.

Fig. 2

TEX Biomarkers and associated cancers: Listed are the protein and RNA biomarkers.

Moreover, the identification of tumor-derived exosomal proteins and microRNAs enables a more personalized approach to cancer diagnosis and treatment. By analyzing the molecular profile of EVs, clinicians can tailor treatment strategies to individual patients, leading to more effective and targeted therapies. Ultimately, the integration of EV biomarkers into clinical practice has the potential to revolutionize cancer management, improving patient outcomes and quality of life.

Extracellular vesicles represent a promising avenue for cancer diagnostics and therapeutics. The wealth of information contained within EVs, including proteins and microRNAs, offers valuable insights into cancer biology and provides clinicians with powerful tools for early detection and personalized treatment. As research in this field continues to advance, EV-based liquid biopsy approaches are poised to become essential components of cancer care, paving the way for improved patient outcomes and novel therapeutic strategies.

Andre M, Caobi A, Miles JS, Vashist A, Ruiz MA, Raymond AD. (2024) Diagnostic potential of exosomal extracellular vesicles in oncology. BMC Cancer 24(1):322. [article]

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