The Double Face of Exosome-Carried MicroRNAs in Cancer Immunomodulation

Romina Alfonsi, Ludovica Grassi, Michele Signore, Désirée Bonci

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In recent years many articles have underlined the key role of nanovesicles, i.e., exosomes, as information carriers among biological systems including cancer. Tumor-derived exosomes (TEXs) are key players in the dynamic crosstalk between cancer cells and the microenvironment while promote immune system control evasion. In fact, tumors are undoubtedly capable of silencing the immune response through multiple mechanisms, including the release of exosomes. TEXs have been shown to boost tumor growth and promote progression and metastatic spreading via suppression or stimulation of the immune response towards cancer cells. The advantage of immunotherapeutic treatment alone over combining immuno- and conventional therapy is currently debated. Understanding the role of tumor exosome-cargo is of crucial importance for our full comprehension of neoplastic immonosuppression and for the construction of novel therapies and vaccines based on (nano-) vesicles. Furthermore, to devise new anti-cancer approaches, diverse groups investigated the possibility of engineering TEXs by conditioning cancer cells’ own cargo. In this review, we summarize the state of art of TEX-based immunomodulation with a particular focus on the molecular function of non-coding family genes, microRNAs. Finally, we will report on recent efforts in the study of potential applications of engineered exosomes in cancer immunotherapy.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 13 2018


  • Cancer Vaccines/therapeutic use
  • Exosomes/genetics
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy/methods
  • MicroRNAs/genetics
  • Nanoparticles/therapeutic use
  • Neoplasms/genetics
  • Tumor Microenvironment


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