Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are nano-sized membrane enclosed vesicles that are released by cells. While initially thought to be cellular detritus or particles involved in eliminating waste from cells, EVs have been recognised as important mediators of intercellular communication by transferring their bioactive cargoes. Notably, over the last two decades, a substantial research effort has been undertaken to understand the role of EVs in cancer. It is now understood that tumour derived EVs can transfer their contents to influence metastatic behaviour, as well as establish favourable microenvironments and pre-metastatic niches that support cancer development and progression. EV-mediated intercellular communication in cancer will be of importance to understanding the emerging paradigm which views cancer as the establishment of a new species within the host organism. Here, we provide a concise overview of EVs and the current understanding of their role and application in cancer. In addition, we explore the potential wider role of EVs in the transfer of inherited characteristics and evolutionary biology.
Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology