Extracellular Vesicles Arising from Apoptotic Cells in Tumors: Roles in Cancer Pathogenesis and Potential Clinical Applications

Catherine Lynch, Maria Panagopoulou, Christopher D. Gregory

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It is known that apoptotic cells can have diverse effects on the tumor microenvironment. Emerging evidence indicates that, despite its renowned role in tumor suppression, apoptosis may also promote oncogenic evolution or posttherapeutic relapse through multiple mechanisms. These include immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, and trophic environmental responses to apoptosis, which drive tumor progression. Our group has introduced the term “onco-regenerative niche (ORN)” to describe a conceptual network of conserved cell death-driven tissue repair and regeneration mechanisms that are hijacked in cancer. We propose that, among the key elements of the ORN are extracellular vesicles (EVs), notably those derived from apoptotic tumor cells. EVs are membrane-delimited subcellular particles, which contain multiple classes of bioactive molecules including markers of the cell from which they are derived. EVs are implicated in an increasing number of physiological and pathological contexts as mediators of local and systemic intercellular communication and detection of specific EVs may be useful in monitoring disease progression. Here, we discuss the mechanisms by which EVs produced by apoptotic tumor cells—both constitutively and as a consequence of therapy—may mediate host responsiveness to cell death in cancer. We also consider how the monitoring of such EVs and their cargoes may in the future help to improve cancer diagnosis, staging, and therapeutic efficacy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFrontiers in Immunology
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2017


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