Until recently, researchers thought that cell division was the only way for an aggressive cancer cell to pass its traits along. New evidence is showing that cancers can become more dangerous by exporting aggressive traits to neighboring cells via exosomes. These small packages — bubbles — of membrane released into the extracellular environment hold pieces of host RNA, DNA and proteins. Now, a new study has shown that exosomes also can hold and transfer integrin molecules known to promote metastasis in several cancers. This discovery was made in a collaborative effort of the labs of Dr. Lucia Languino, Professor of Cancer Biology and Dr. Renato Iozzo, Professor of Pathology. Both are members of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Thomas Jefferson University.
Because of the role of the αvβ6 intergrin in prostate cancer, Languino, first author Carmine Fedele and colleagues investigated whether the αvβ6 integrin might be transferred between cells via exosomes. The researchers examined the exosomes released from prostate cancer cell lines known to express the αvβ6 integrin and found that the exosomes were enriched with this integrin. The research also was supported by the work of Amrita Singh, a graduate student in Languino’s lab.
The results were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. “This is an important addition to the research showing that tumors have novel ways of spreading aggressive traits,” says senior author Dr. Lucia Languino.