Tumor-derived exosomes (TEX) are emerging as a new type of cancer biomarker. TEX are membrane-bound, virus-size vesicles of endocytic origin present in all body fluids of cancer patients. Based on the expanding albeit incomplete knowledge of their biogenesis, secretion by tumor cells and cancer cell-specific molecular and genetic contents, TEX are viewed as promising, clinically-relevant surrogates of cancer progression and response to therapy. Preliminary proteomic, genetic and functional profiling of tumor cell-derived or cancer plasma-derived exosomes confirms their unique characteristics. Alterations in protein or nucleic acid profiles of exosomes in plasma of cancer patients responding to therapies appear to correlate with clinical endpoints. However, methods for TEX isolation and separation from the bulk of human plasma-derived exosomes are not yet established and their role as biomarkers remains to be confirmed. Further development and validation of TEX as noninvasive, liquid equivalents of tumor biopsies are necessary to move this effort forward.
Whiteside TL. (2015) The potential of tumor-derived exosomes for noninvasive cancer monitoring. Expert Rev Mol Diagn [Epub ahead of print]. [abstract]