Scientific publications

Extracellular vesicles in cancer: challenges and opportunities for clinical laboratories

Feb 15, 2024 | Magazine: Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences

Álvaro González  1   2 , Silvia López-Borrego  3 , Amaia Sandúa  1 , Mar Vales-Gomez  3 , Estibaliz Alegre  1   2


Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are nano-sized particles secreted by most cells. They transport different types of biomolecules (nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids) characteristic of their tissue or cellular origin that can mediate long-distance intercellular communication.

In the case of cancer, EVs participate in tumor progression by modifying the tumor microenvironment, favoring immune tolerance and metastasis development. Consequently, EVs have great potential in liquid biopsy for cancer diagnosis, prognosis and follow-up. In addition, EVs could have a role in cancer treatment as a targeted drug delivery system.

The intense research in the EV field has resulted in hundreds of patents and the creation of biomedical companies. However, methodological issues and heterogeneity in EV composition have hampered the advancement of EV validation trials and the development of EV-based diagnostic and therapeutic products. Consequently, only a few EV biomarkers have moved from research to clinical laboratories, such as the ExoDx Prostate IntelliScore (EPI) test, a CLIA/FDA-approved EV prostate cancer diagnostic test.

In addition, the number of large-scale multicenter studies that would clearly define biomarker performance is limited. In this review, we will critically describe the different types of EVs, the methods for their enrichment and characterization, and their biological role in cancer.

Then, we will specially focus on the parameters to be considered for the translation of EV biology to the clinic laboratory, the advances already made in the field of EVs related to cancer diagnosis and treatment, and the issues still pending to be solved before EVs could be used as a routine tool in oncology.

CITATION  Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci. 2024 Feb 15:1-23.  doi: 10.1080/10408363.2024.2309935