Article Abstract

Exosomes, cancer’s little army

Authors: Balta S. Al-Sowayan, Alaa T. Al-Shareeda, Ensaf M. Al-Hujaily


In an attempt to conceptualize the process of cancer formation, Hanahan and Weinberg [2000] have outlined six universal characteristics of tumorigenesis, and labelled them as the “hallmarks of cancer”. These hallmarks include; unlimited proliferation, evading growth suppressors, resisting cell death, replicative immortality, inducing angiogenesis, initiating invasion and metastasis. Cancer cell signalling is crucial for initiating and controlling cellular pathways that are involved in these hallmarks. The intricate network of communication between cancer cells and other cancer or non-cancer cells is still being investigated, and is yet to be fully understood. Initially it was proposed that the main form of communication between cells within the tumour microenvironment are soluble growth factors, and gap junctions. Then, researchers reported another form of cell-to-cell communication, through the release of spherical particles called exosomes. It is believed that these exosomes enable communication through the transfer of active components from the releasing cell, and off-loading it into the recipient cell. As researchers continue to examine the development of the cancer hallmarks and the pathways involved, it became evident that cancer cell-derived exosomes play a major role in almost all of them. This review will examine the role played by cancer cell-derived exosomes in development of cancer.