Exosomes in the tumor microenvironment as mediators of cancer therapy resistance

Exosomes are small extracellular vesicles that contain genetic material, proteins, and lipids. They function as potent signaling molecules between cancer cells and the surrounding cells that comprise the tumor microenvironment (TME). Exosomes derived from both tumor and stromal cells have been implicated in all stages of cancer progression and play an important role in therapy resistance. Moreover, due to their nature as mediators of cell-cell communication, they are integral to TME-dependent therapy resistance.

Stanford University researchers discuss current exosome isolation and profiling techniques and their role in TME interactions and therapy resistance. They also explore emerging clinical applications of both exosomes as biomarkers, direct therapeutic targets, and engineered nanocarriers. In order to fully understand the TME, careful interrogation of exosomes and their cargo is critical. This understanding is a promising avenue for the development of effective clinical applications.

Tumor microenvironment interactions


A macroscopic view of the molecular crosstalk between cancer-associated fibroblasts, endothelial vasculature, infiltrating immune cells, and malignant cells in the TME. Dynamic interactions governed by heterotypic signaling mechanisms between cell types modulate various stages of cancer progression (grey boxes). The role of exosomes in this cell-cell signaling is highlighted (blue and orange boxes)

Li I, Nabet BY. (2019) Exosomes in the tumor microenvironment as mediators of cancer therapy resistance. Mol Cancer 18(1):32. [article]

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