Extracellular Vesicles (EVs) have received considerable attention in recent years, both as mediators of intercellular communication pathways that lead to tumor progression, and as potential sources for discovery of novel cancer biomarkers. For many years, research on EVs has mainly investigated either the mechanism of biogenesis and cargo selection and incorporation, or the methods of EV isolation from available body fluids for biomarker discovery. Recent studies have highlighted the existence of different populations of cancer-derived EVs, with distinct molecular cargo, thus pointing to the possibility that the various EV populations might play diverse roles in cancer and that this does not happen randomly. However, data attributing cancer specific intercellular functions to given populations of EVs are still limited. A deeper functional, biochemical and molecular characterization of the various EV classes might identify more selective clinical markers, and significantly advance our knowledge of the pathogenesis and disease progression of many cancer types.
Keywords: cancer; ectosomes; exosomes; extracellular vesicles; intercellular communication; large oncosomes; microvesicles; tumor microenvironment.