Blood vessels deliver oxygen and nutrients that sustain tumor growth and enable the dissemination of cancer cells to distant sites and the recruitment of intratumoral immune cells. In addition, the structural and functional abnormalities of the tumor vasculature foster the development of an aggressive tumor microenvironment and impair the efficacy of existing cancer therapies. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) have emerged as major players of tumor progression, and a growing body of evidence has demonstrated that EVs derived from cancer cells trigger multiple responses in endothelial cells that alter blood vessel function in tumors. EV-mediated signaling in endothelial cells can occur through the transfer of functional cargos such as miRNAs, lncRNAs, cirRNAs, and proteins. Moreover, membrane-bound proteins in EVs can elicit receptor-mediated signaling in endothelial cells. Together, these mechanisms reprogram endothelial cells and contribute to the sustained exacerbated angiogenic signaling typical of tumors, which, in turn, influences cancer progression. Targeting these angiogenesis-promoting EV-dependent mechanisms may offer additional strategies to normalize tumor vasculature.
A team led by researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center discusses the current knowledge pertaining to the contribution of cancer cell-derived EVs in mechanisms regulating blood vessel functions in tumors. Moreover, they discuss the translational opportunities in targeting the dysfunctional tumor vasculature using EVs and highlight the open questions in the field of EV biology that can be addressed using mass spectrometry-based proteomics analysis.