Extracellular vesicles, including exosomes, constitute an important element of intercellular communication by carrying a variety of molecules from producer to target cells. The transport of mRNA and miRNA can directly modulate gene expression in the target cells. The miRNA content in exosomes is characteristic for the cell from which the vesicles were derived enabling the usage of exosomes as biomarkers for the diagnosis various diseases, including cancer. Cancer-derived exosomes support the survival and progression of tumors in many ways and also contribute to the neutralization of the anti-cancer immune response. Exosomes participate in all known mechanisms by which cancer evades the immune system. They influence the differentiation and activation of immune suppressor cells, they modulate antigen presentation, and are able to induce T-cell apoptosis. Although cancer-derived exosomes mainly suppress the immune system and facilitate tumor progression, they are also important sources of tumor antigens with potential clinical application in stimulating immune responses.
Schematic representation of the most important functions of cancer-derived exosomes in immunosuppression. Active molecules transported by exosomes and their effects on immune cells are indicated