Engineering Extracellular Vesicles for Cancer Therapy

Subcell Biochem. 2021;97:375-392. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-67171-6_14.


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are lipid bilayer containing nanovesicles that have a predominant role in intercellular communication and cargo delivery. EVs have recently been used as a means for drug delivery and have been depicted to elicit no or minimal immune response in vivo. The stability, biocompatibility and manipulatable tumour homing capabilities of these biological vessels make them an attractive target for the packaging and delivery of drugs and molecules to treat various diseases including cancer. The following chapter will summarise current EV engineering techniques for the purpose of delivering putative drugs and therapeutic molecules for the treatment of cancer. The relevance of EV source will be discussed, as well as the specific modifications required to manufacture them into suitable vehicles for molecular drug delivery. Furthermore, methods of EV cargo encapsulation will be evaluated with emphasis on intercellular coordination to allow for the effective emptying of therapeutic contents into target cells. While EVs possess properties making them naturally suitable nanocarriers for drugs and molecules, many challenges with clinical translation of EV-based platforms remain. These issues need to be addressed in order to harness the true potential of the EV-based therapeutic avenue.

Keywords: Cancer therapy; Cargo loading; Clinical trials; Disease; Drug delivery; Exosome therapy; Extracellular vesicles; Extracellular vesicles sources; Pathology.

MeSH terms

  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • Extracellular Vesicles*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy