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Clinical and Developmental Immunology
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 842849, 11 pages
Review Article

The Roles of Tumor-Derived Exosomes in Cancer Pathogenesis

Department of Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15219, USA

Received 9 July 2011; Accepted 28 August 2011

Academic Editor: Hisae Iinuma

Copyright © 2011 Chenjie Yang and Paul D. Robbins. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Exosomes are endosome-derived, 30–100 nm small membrane vesicles released by most cell types including tumor cells. They are enriched in a selective repertoire of proteins and nucleic acids from parental cells and are thought to be actively involved in conferring intercellular signals. Tumor-derived exosomes have been viewed as a source of tumor antigens that can be used to induce antitumor immune responses. However, tumor-derived exosomes also have been found to possess immunosuppressive properties and are able to facilitate tumor growth, metastasis, and the development of drug resistance. These different effects of tumor-derived exosomes contribute to the pathogenesis of cancer. This review will discuss the roles of tumor-derived exosomes in cancer pathogenesis, therapy, and diagnostics.