Harnessing exosomes in theranostic applications: advancements and insights in gastrointestinal cancer research

Discov Oncol. 2024 May 14;15(1):162. doi: 10.1007/s12672-024-01024-x.


Exosomes are small extracellular vesicles (30-150 nm) that are formed by endocytosis containing complex RNA as well as protein structures and are vital in intercellular communication and can be used in gene therapy and drug delivery. According to the cell sources of origin and the environmental conditions they are exposed to, these nanovesicles are very heterogeneous and dynamic in terms of content (cargo), size and membrane composition. Exosomes are released under physiological and pathological conditions and influence the pathogenesis of cancers through various mechanisms, including angiogenesis, metastasis, immune dysregulation, drug resistance, and tumor growth/development. Gastrointestinal cancer is one of the deadliest types of cancer in humans and can involve organs e.g., the esophagus and stomach, or others such as the liver, pancreas, small intestine, and colon. Early diagnosis is very important in this field because the overall survival of patients is low due to diagnosis in late stages and recurrence. Also, various therapeutic strategies have failed and there is an unmet need for the new therapeutic agents. Exosomes can become promising candidates in gastrointestinal cancers as biomarkers and therapeutic agents due to their lower immunity and passing the main physiological barriers. In this work, we provide a general overview of exosomes, their biogenesis and biological functions. In addition, we discuss the potential of exosomes to serve as biomarkers, agents in cancer treatment, drug delivery systems, and effective vaccines in immunotherapy, with an emphasis on gastrointestinal cancers.

Keywords: Biomarker; Cancer therapy; Exosomes; Gastrointestinal cancer.

Publication types

  • Review