Extracellular vesicles and immunogenic stress in cancer

Tumor progression requires bidirectional cell-to-cell communication within a complex tumor microenvironment (TME). Extracellular vesicles (EVs) as carriers have the capacity to shuttle regulatory molecules, including nucleic acids, proteins, and lipids, between cancer cells and multiple stromal cells, inducing remarkable phenotypic alterations in the TME. Recently proposed the concept “immunogenic stress”, which means in some stressed microenvironment, cancer cells can release EVs containing specific immunoregulatory mediators, depending on the initiating stress-associated pathway, thereby provoking the changes of immune status in the TME. Considerable evidence has revealed that the intracellular mechanisms underlying the response to diverse stresses are mainly autophagy, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress reactions and the DNA damage response (DDR).

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Fig: Autophagy and the release of immune-related EVs

In addition, the activation of immunogenic stress responses endows hosts with immune surveillance capacity; in contrast, several cargoes in EVs under immunogenic stress trigger a passive immune response by mediating the function of immune cells. This review discusses the current understanding of the immunogenic stress pathways in cancer and describes the interrelation between EVs and immunogenic stress to propose potential treatment strategies and biomarkers.

Wu, Q., Zhang, H., Sun, S. et al. Extracellular vesicles and immunogenic stress in cancer. Cell Death Dis 12, 894 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41419-021-04171-z

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