The role of exosomes in cancer-related cognitive impairment

A decline in cognitive function following cancer treatment is one of the most commonly reported post-treatment symptoms among patients with cancer and those in remission, and include memory, processing speed, and executive function. A clear understanding of cognitive impairment as a result of cancer and its therapy can be obtained by delineating structural and functional changes using brain imaging studies and neurocognitive assessments. There is also a need to determine the underlying mechanisms and pathways that impact the brain and affect cognitive functioning in cancer survivors. Exosomes are small cell-derived vesicles formed by the inward budding of multivesicular bodies, and are released into the extracellular environment via an exocytic pathway. Growing evidence suggests that exosomes contribute to various physiological and pathological conditions, including neurological processes such as synaptic plasticity, neuronal stress response, cell-to-cell communication, and neurogenesis. Researchers from the National University of Singapore summarize the relationship between exosomes and cancer-related cognitive impairment. Unraveling exosomes’ actions and effects on the microenvironment of the brain, which impacts cognitive functioning, is critical for the development of exosome-based therapeutics for cancer-related cognitive impairment.


Multivesicular bodies can move retrogradely and anterogradely in neural cells (A-B), which may lead to their release into the extracellular space as exosomes. Exosomes participating in intercellular communication (signaling among neurons and/or non-neuronal cells, C–G) play a critical role in neuronal physiology and pathology

Koh YQ, Tan CJ, Toh YL, Sze SK, Ho HK, Limoli CL, Chan A. (2020) Role of Exosomes in Cancer-Related Cognitive Impairment. Int J Mol Sci 21(8). [abstract]

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