Extracellular Vesicles Regulate Cancer Metastasis

Subcell Biochem. 2021;97:275-296. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-67171-6_11.


Metastatic cancer is a complex disease associated with poor prognosis and accounts for the majority of cancer related deaths. To date, many of the molecular mechanisms driving metastatic disease remain elusive and require further investigation for the development of effective treatment strategies. Recent studies have shown that extracellular vesicles (EVs) can be exploited by tumors to assist in cancer cell growth, proliferation, migration, invasion and metastasis. Cancer cells have proven efficient in educating fibroblasts, within their microenvironment, to secrete EVs as communicative vessels for mediating phenotypic changes in recipient cells. Using this vesicular delivery system, cancer cells can establish a new metastatic niche within distant sites, away from the primary tumor, thus favoring cancer progression. These findings demonstrate the availability of a new route for therapeutic intervention in the inhibition of cancer dissemination. Although, several approaches to target cancer cell secretion of EVs are detailed in the literature, there is still no defined way to currently apply them in clinical settings. Hence, further studies are required to unravel the molecular mechanisms of metastasis - governed by the establishment and release of cancer associated EVs.

Keywords: Angiogenesis; Cancer; Exosomes; Extracellular vesicles; Metastasis; Pre-metastatic niche.

MeSH terms

  • Extracellular Vesicles* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology
  • Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Tumor Microenvironment