Tumor-cell-derived microvesicles as carriers of molecular information in cancer

Curr Opin Oncol. 2013 Jan;25(1):66-75. doi: 10.1097/CCO.0b013e32835b7c81.


Purpose of review: Exosomes and microvesicles are secreted particles of 30-200 nm in diameter, delimited by a lipid bilayer and containing a wide range of membrane-bound or free proteins and nucleic acids (in particular mRNA and miRNA). Here, we review the properties of tumor-cell-derived microvesicles as carriers of molecular information in relation to cancer progression and promotion of metastasis.

Recent findings: Microvesicles from tumor cells operate as signaling platforms that diffuse in the extracellular space to target cells in the microenvironment, modulating the interactions of tumor cells with stromal, inflammatory, dendritic, immune or vascular cells and priming the formation of the metastatic niche.

Summary: Because of their stability, exosomes and microvesicles can be retrieved in bodily fluids as biomarkers for cancer detection and monitoring. They offer a range of molecular targets for controlling cell-cell interactions during invasion and metastasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Cell Communication
  • Cell-Derived Microparticles / metabolism*
  • Exosomes / immunology
  • Exosomes / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Space / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Tumor Microenvironment*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor