Cancer is a leading public health issue globally, and diagnosis is often associated with poor outcomes and reduced patient survival. One of the major contributors to the fatality resultant of cancer is the development of resistance to chemotherapy, known as chemoresistance. Furthermore, there are limitations in our ability to identify patients that will respond to therapy, versus patients that will develop relapse, and display limited or no response to treatment. This often leads to patients being subjected to multiple futile treatment cycles, and results in a reduction in their quality of life. Therefore, there is an urgent clinical need to develop tools to identify patients at risk of chemoresistance, and recent literature has suggested that small extracellular vesicles, known as exosomes, may be a vital source of information.
Extracellular vesicles (EV) are membrane bound vesicles, involved in cell-cell communication, through the transfer of their cargo, which includes proteins, lipids, and miRNAs. Researchers from the University of Queensland conducted a systematic review in order to provide a compilation of key EV miRNAs which may be predictive of chemoresistance. Interestingly, multiple studies of the same tumor type identified different microRNAs, and few studies identified the same ones. Specifically, miR-21, miR-222, and miR-155 displayed roles in response to chemotherapy, and were found to be common in colorectal cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer, and diffuse large B cell lymphoma patients (DLBCL). miR-21 and miR-222 were found to favour the development of chemoresistance, whereas miR-155 exhibited a contrasting role, depending on the type of primary tumor. Whilst high levels of miR-155 were found to correlate with chemotherapy resistance in DLBCL, it was found to be predictive of an effective response towards chemotherapy in breast cancer. Thus, further research regarding the roles of these miRNAs would be beneficial in terms of designing novel tools to counteract the progression of cancer in a not-to-distant future.