Thyroid cancers are the most common endocrine malignancy and approximately 2% of thyroid cancers are anaplastic thyroid carcinoma (ATC), one of the most lethal and treatment resistant human cancers. Cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) may initiate tumorigenesis, induce resistance to chemotherapy and radiation therapy, have multipotent capability and may be responsible for recurrent and metastatic disease. The production of CSCs has been linked to epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and the acquisition of stemness. Exosomes are small (30-150 nm) membranous vesicles secreted by most cells that play a significant role in cell-to-cell communication. Many non-coding RNAs (ncRNA), such as long-non-coding RNAs (lncRNA), can initiate tumorigenesis and the EMT process. Exosomes carry ncRNAs to local and distant cell populations. This study examines secreted exosomes from two in vitro cell culture models; an EMT model and a CSC model. The EMT was induced in a papillary thyroid carcinoma (PTC) cell line by TGFβ1 treatment. Exosomes from this model were isolated and cultured with naïve PTC cells and examined for EMT induction. In the CSC model, exosomes were isolated from a CSC clonal line, cultured with a normal thyroid cell line and examined for EMT induction. The EMT exosomes transferred the lncRNA MALAT1 and EMT effectors SLUG and SOX2; however, EMT was not induced in this model. The exosomes from the CSC model also transferred the lncRNA MALAT1 and the transcription factors SLUG and SOX2 but additionally transferred linc-ROR and induced EMT in the normal thyroid cells. Preliminary siRNA studies directed towards linc-ROR reduced invasion. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health hypothesize that CSC exosomes transfer lncRNAs, importantly linc-ROR, to induce EMT and inculcate the local tumor microenvironment and the distant metastatic niche. Therapies directed towards CSCs, their exosomes and/or the lncRNAs they carry may reduce a tumor’s metastatic capacity.
a Electron micrograph of uranyl acetate stained TPC-1 exosomes (top) showing typical exosomal cup-shaped morphology and CD9 ImmunoGold labeled (bottom) exosomes derived from cell culture isolated by polymeric precipitation and further purified by CD81 coated magnetic beads. Black arrows  indicate CD9 positive stained exosomes, white arrow  indicates not stained, or CD9 negative, exosome. b Nanoparticle Tracking Analysis of TPC-1 exosomes isolated and purified as the exosomes in the EM (a)