Extracellular Vesicles in Cancer: Purpose and Promise

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Extracellular vesicles refer collectively to a heterogeneous group of membrane-bound vesicles released from cells and loaded with bioactive proteins, nucleic acids, and lipids. The concept of extracellular vesicles has rapidly evolved from once being viewed as cellular debris to their recognition as packets of cellular information with considerable promise for clinical applications as biomarker platforms and therapeutic vehicles. These shed vesicles have emerged as critical mediators of intercellular communication in both local and distant microenvironments during normal physiological processes, as well as in orchestrating systemic pathophysiological events in disease. This mode of cellular crosstalk is particularly relevant to modulating the tumor microenvironment and orchestrating paths of least resistance during metastases. Here, we describe recent advances for the roles of extracellular vesicles in tumor progression and their potential as disease biomarkers.

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