Tumour-derived exosomes as a signature of pancreatic cancer - liquid biopsies as indicators of tumour progression

Zarin Nuzhat, Vyjayanthi Kinhal, Shayna Sharma, Gregory E. Rice, Virendra Joshi and Carlos Salomon _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:17279-17291. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.13973

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Zarin Nuzhat1, Vyjayanthi Kinhal1, Shayna Sharma1, Gregory E. Rice1,2, Virendra Joshi3 and Carlos Salomon1,2

1 Exosome Biology Laboratory, Centre for Clinical Diagnostics, University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, The University of Queensland, Brisbane QLD 4029, Australia

2 Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Ochsner Baptist Hospital, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

3 Ochsner Clinic Foundation, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Correspondence to:

Carlos Salomon, email:

Keywords: exosomes, pancreatic cancer, biomarkers

Received: August 19, 2016 Accepted: December 13, 2016 Published: December 16, 2016


Pancreatic cancer is the fourth most common cause of death due to cancer in the world. It is known to have a poor prognosis, mostly because early stages of the disease are generally asymptomatic. Progress in pancreatic cancer research has been slow, leaving several fundamental questions pertaining to diagnosis and treatment unanswered. Recent studies highlight the putative utility of tissue-specific vesicles (i.e. extracellular vesicles) in the diagnosis of disease onset and treatment monitoring in pancreatic cancer. Extracellular vesicles are membrane-limited structures derived from the cell membrane. They contain specific molecules including proteins, mRNA, microRNAs and non-coding RNAs that are secreted in the extracellular space. Extracellular vesicles can be classified according to their size and/or origin into microvesicles (~150-1000 nm) and exosomes (~40-120 nm). Microvesicles are released by budding from the plasmatic membrane, whereas exosomes are released via the endocytic pathway by fusion of multivesicular bodies with the plasmatic membrane. This endosomal origin means that exosomes contain an abundance of cell-specific biomolecules which may act as a ‘fingerprint’ of the cell of origin. In this review, we discuss our current knowledge in the diagnosis and treatment of pancreatic cancer, particularly the potential role of EVs in these facets of disease management. In particular, we suggest that as exosomes contain cellular protein and RNA molecules in a cell type-specific manner, they may provide extensive information about the signature of the tumour and pancreatic cancer progression.

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