Large extracellular vesicles: Size matters in tumor progression

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Extracellular Vesicles (EVs) represent a heterogeneous population of particles naturally released from all cells, delimited by a lipid bilayer and able to horizontally transfer their cargos to recipient cells. These features imply the growing interest on EVs in cancer biology as biomarkers and therapeutic targets. In this review, we will highlight the specific process related to biogenesis and release of large EVs (L-EVs) derived from the plasma membrane (PM) compared to the small and well described exosomes, generated through the classical endosome-multivesicular body (MVB) pathway. The control of PM rigidity by cells depends on lipid/protein composition, cytoskeleton dynamics, cytoplasmic viscosity, ions balance, metabolic reprogramming and specific intracellular signaling pathways, all critical determinants of L-EVs biogenesis. We will focus in details on a specific class of L-EVs, named Large Oncosomes (LO), exclusively shed by cancer cells and with a size ranging from 1 μm up to 10 μm. We will examine LO specific cargos, either proteins or nucleic acids (i.e. mRNA, microRNAs, single/double-stranded DNA), as well as their functional role in cancer development and progression, also discussing the mechanisms of L-EVs internalization by recipient cells. Overall we will highlight the potential of LO as specific diagnostic/prognostic cancer biomarkers discussing the associated challenges.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-74
Number of pages6
JournalCytokine and Growth Factor Reviews
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • Cancer
  • Cell-to cell communication
  • Extracellular vesicles
  • Large oncosomes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Immunology
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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