Exosomes and extracellular vesicles: Rethinking the essential values in cancer biology

Semin Cancer Biol. 2021 Sep;74:79-91. doi: 10.1016/j.semcancer.2021.03.032. Epub 2021 Mar 31.


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) such as exosomes are released by all living cells and contain diverse bioactive molecules, including nucleic acids, proteins, lipids, and metabolites. Accumulating evidence of EV-related functions has revealed that these tiny vesicles can mediate specific cell-to-cell communication. Within the tumor microenvironment, diverse cells are actively interacting with their surroundings via EVs facilitating tumor malignancy by regulating malignant cascades including angiogenesis, immune modulation, and metastasis. This review summarizes the recent studies of fundamental understandings of EVs from the aspect of EV heterogeneity and highlights the role of EVs in the various steps from oncogenic to metastatic processes. The recognition of EV subtypes is necessary to identify which pathways can be affected by EVs and which subtypes can be targeted in therapeutic approaches or liquid biopsies.

Keywords: Exosomes; Extracellular vesicles; Heterogeneity; Metastasis; Oncogenesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Communication*
  • Exosomes*
  • Extracellular Vesicles
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms*
  • Tumor Microenvironment*