Extracellular heat shock proteins and cancer: New perspectives

Transl Oncol. 2021 Feb;14(2):100995. doi: 10.1016/j.tranon.2020.100995. Epub 2020 Dec 15.


Heat shock proteins (HSPs) are a large family of molecular chaperones aberrantly expressed in cancer. The expression of HSPs in tumor cells has been shown to be implicated in the regulation of apoptosis, immune responses, angiogenesis and metastasis. Given that extracellular vesicles (EVs) can serve as potential source for the discovery of clinically useful biomarkers and therapeutic targets, it is of particular interest to study proteomic profiling of HSPs in EVs derived from various biological fluids of cancer patients. Furthermore, a divergent expression of circulating microRNAs (miRNAs) in patient samples has opened new opportunities in exploiting miRNAs as diagnostic tools. Herein, we address the current literature on the expression of extracellular HSPs with particular interest in HSPs in EVs derived from various biological fluids of cancer patients and different types of immune cells as promising targets for identification of clinical biomarkers of cancer. We also discuss the emerging role of miRNAs in HSP regulation for the discovery of blood-based biomarkers of cancer. We outline the importance of understanding relationships between various HSP networks and co-chaperones and propose the model for identification of HSP signatures in cancer. Elucidating the role of HSPs in EVs from the proteomic and miRNAs perspectives may provide new opportunities for the discovery of novel biomarkers of cancer.

Keywords: Biomarker; Extracellular HSPs; Extracellular vesicles; cancer; heat shock proteins; miRNA.

Publication types

  • Review