Extracellular Vesicles and Their Role in Urologic Malignancies

CONTEXT - Research has increased significantly on small vesicles secreted by healthy and diseased cells. Recent discoveries have revealed their functional and biomarker roles in urologic diseases. Whether and how this knowledge of extracellular vesicles (EVs) affects translational research and clinical practices have become pertinent questions.

OBJECTIVE - To provide an overview of the currently available literature on the rising field of EVs, focusing on function and pathogenesis in urologic cancers and the usefulness of EVs as biomarkers.

EVIDENCE ACQUISITION - A systematic literature search was conducted using PubMed to identify original articles, review articles, and editorials regarding EVs in different types of urologic tumor diseases. Articles published between 2005 and 2015 were reviewed and selected with the consensus of all authors.

EVIDENCE SYNTHESIS - Besides soluble factors, different types of EVs are involved in the complex cross talk between different cell types. EVs regulate normal physiologic processes like spermatogenesis and renal function, as well as disease-specific processes including bladder, kidney, and prostate cancer. The content of EVs is derived from the cytoplasm of the donor cell. The proteins and RNAs within these EVs can be isolated from body fluids (eg, urine and blood) and represent potential diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. EVs are also candidate therapeutic targets and potentially useful as therapeutic vehicles.

CONCLUSIONS - The current data suggest that EVs are important regulators of cell-cell communication. The growing knowledge about their roles in urologic malignancies provides the basis for novel therapeutic strategies. In addition, nucleic acid and the protein content of EVs holds promise for the discovery of urine- or serum-based biomarkers for kidney, bladder, and prostate cancer.

PATIENT SUMMARY - Normal and cancer cells secrete small vesicles that contain proteins and RNAs from the cell of origin. Changes in the diseased cells can be detected by examining the altered content of these vesicles when secreted in body fluids, for example, blood and urine. The recently discovered roles of extracellular vesicles (EVs) provide new options to detect malignancy in the urine and blood. The uptake of EVs may be blocked therapeutically and thereby potentially impede cancer progression.

European urology. 2016 Feb 25 [Epub ahead of print]

Kerstin Junker, Joana Heinzelmann, Carla Beckham, Takahiro Ochiya, Guido Jenster

Clinic of Urology and Pediatric Urology, Saarland University, Homburg, Germany. Electronic address: ., Clinic of Urology and Pediatric Urology, Saarland University, Homburg, Germany., Department of Urology, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA., National Cancer Center Research Institute, Division of Molecular and Cellular Medicine, Tokyo, Japan., Department of Urology, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.