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      A Snapshot of The Tumor Microenvironment in Colorectal Cancer: The Liquid Biopsy

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          The molecular profile of liquid biopsies is emerging as an alternative to tissue biopsies in the clinical management of malignant diseases. In colorectal cancer, significant liquid biopsy-based biomarkers have demonstrated an ability to discriminate between asymptomatic cancer patients and healthy controls. Furthermore, this non-invasive approach appears to provide relevant information regarding the stratification of tumors with different prognoses and the monitoring of treatment responses. This review focuses on the tumor microenvironment components which are detected in blood samples of colorectal cancer patients and might represent potential biomarkers. Exosomes released by tumor and stromal cells play a major role in the modulation of cancer progression in the primary tumor microenvironment and in the formation of an inflammatory pre-metastatic niche. Stromal cells-derived exosomes are involved in driving mechanisms that promote tumor growth, migration, metastasis, and drug resistance, therefore representing substantial signaling mediators in the tumor-stroma interaction. Besides, recent findings of specifically packaged exosome cargo in Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts of colorectal cancer patients identify novel exosomal biomarkers with potential clinical applicability. Furthermore, additional different signals emitted from the tumor microenvironment and also detectable in the blood, such as soluble factors and non-tumoral circulating cells, arise as novel promising biomarkers for cancer diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment response prediction. The therapeutic potential of these factors is still limited, and studies are in their infancy. However, innovative strategies aiming at the inhibition of tumor progression by systemic exosome depletion, exosome-mediated circulating tumor cell capturing, and exosome-drug delivery systems are currently being studied and may provide considerable advantages in the near future.

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          Cancer statistics, 2019

          Each year, the American Cancer Society estimates the numbers of new cancer cases and deaths that will occur in the United States and compiles the most recent data on cancer incidence, mortality, and survival. Incidence data, available through 2015, were collected by the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program; the National Program of Cancer Registries; and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries. Mortality data, available through 2016, were collected by the National Center for Health Statistics. In 2019, 1,762,450 new cancer cases and 606,880 cancer deaths are projected to occur in the United States. Over the past decade of data, the cancer incidence rate (2006-2015) was stable in women and declined by approximately 2% per year in men, whereas the cancer death rate (2007-2016) declined annually by 1.4% and 1.8%, respectively. The overall cancer death rate dropped continuously from 1991 to 2016 by a total of 27%, translating into approximately 2,629,200 fewer cancer deaths than would have been expected if death rates had remained at their peak. Although the racial gap in cancer mortality is slowly narrowing, socioeconomic inequalities are widening, with the most notable gaps for the most preventable cancers. For example, compared with the most affluent counties, mortality rates in the poorest counties were 2-fold higher for cervical cancer and 40% higher for male lung and liver cancers during 2012-2016. Some states are home to both the wealthiest and the poorest counties, suggesting the opportunity for more equitable dissemination of effective cancer prevention, early detection, and treatment strategies. A broader application of existing cancer control knowledge with an emphasis on disadvantaged groups would undoubtedly accelerate progress against cancer.
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            Argonaute2 complexes carry a population of circulating microRNAs independent of vesicles in human plasma.

            MicroRNAs (miRNAs) circulate in the bloodstream in a highly stable, extracellular form and are being developed as blood-based biomarkers for cancer and other diseases. However, the mechanism underlying their remarkable stability in the RNase-rich environment of blood is not well understood. The current model in the literature posits that circulating miRNAs are protected by encapsulation in membrane-bound vesicles such as exosomes, but this has not been systematically studied. We used differential centrifugation and size-exclusion chromatography as orthogonal approaches to characterize circulating miRNA complexes in human plasma and serum. We found, surprisingly, that the majority of circulating miRNAs cofractionated with protein complexes rather than with vesicles. miRNAs were also sensitive to protease treatment of plasma, indicating that protein complexes protect circulating miRNAs from plasma RNases. Further characterization revealed that Argonaute2 (Ago2), the key effector protein of miRNA-mediated silencing, was present in human plasma and eluted with plasma miRNAs in size-exclusion chromatography. Furthermore, immunoprecipitation of Ago2 from plasma readily recovered non-vesicle-associated plasma miRNAs. The majority of miRNAs studied copurified with the Ago2 ribonucleoprotein complex, but a minority of specific miRNAs associated predominantly with vesicles. Our results reveal two populations of circulating miRNAs and suggest that circulating Ago2 complexes are a mechanism responsible for the stability of plasma miRNAs. Our study has important implications for the development of biomarker approaches based on capture and analysis of circulating miRNAs. In addition, identification of extracellular Ago2-miRNA complexes in plasma raises the possibility that cells release a functional miRNA-induced silencing complex into the circulation.
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              Melanoma exosomes educate bone marrow progenitor cells toward a pro-metastatic phenotype through MET.

              Tumor-derived exosomes are emerging mediators of tumorigenesis. We explored the function of melanoma-derived exosomes in the formation of primary tumors and metastases in mice and human subjects. Exosomes from highly metastatic melanomas increased the metastatic behavior of primary tumors by permanently 'educating' bone marrow progenitors through the receptor tyrosine kinase MET. Melanoma-derived exosomes also induced vascular leakiness at pre-metastatic sites and reprogrammed bone marrow progenitors toward a pro-vasculogenic phenotype that was positive for c-Kit, the receptor tyrosine kinase Tie2 and Met. Reducing Met expression in exosomes diminished the pro-metastatic behavior of bone marrow cells. Notably, MET expression was elevated in circulating CD45(-)C-KIT(low/+)TIE2(+) bone marrow progenitors from individuals with metastatic melanoma. RAB1A, RAB5B, RAB7 and RAB27A, regulators of membrane trafficking and exosome formation, were highly expressed in melanoma cells. Rab27A RNA interference decreased exosome production, preventing bone marrow education and reducing, tumor growth and metastasis. In addition, we identified an exosome-specific melanoma signature with prognostic and therapeutic potential comprised of TYRP2, VLA-4, HSP70, an HSP90 isoform and the MET oncoprotein. Our data show that exosome production, transfer and education of bone marrow cells supports tumor growth and metastasis, has prognostic value and offers promise for new therapeutic directions in the metastatic process.

                Author and article information

                Int J Mol Sci
                Int J Mol Sci
                International Journal of Molecular Sciences
                29 November 2019
                December 2019
                : 20
                : 23
                [1 ]Department of Oncology-Pathology, Karolinska Institutet, 17177 Stockholm, Sweden; mercedes.herrera@
                [2 ]Medical Oncology Department, Instituto Ramón y Cajal de Investigación Sanitaria (IRYCIS), Alcalá University, 28034 Madrid, Spain; crisgpuma@
                [3 ]Centro de Investigación Biomédica en Red de Cancer (CIBERONC), 28029 Madrid, Spain
                [4 ]Laboratorio de Oncología Molecular, Hospital Clínico San Carlos, Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria San Carlos (IdISSC), 28040 Madrid, Spain
                Author notes
                © 2019 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


                Molecular biology

                exosomes, liquid biopsy, tumor microenvironment, colorectal cancer


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