Research

Exosomes

Cancer evolves through a multistep process that occurs by the temporal accumulation of genetic mutations. Tumor-derived exosomes are emerging contributors to tumorigenesis. To understand how exosomes might contribute to cell transformation, we utilized the classic two-step NIH/3T3 cell transformation assay and observed that exosomes isolated from pancreatic cancer cells, but not normal human cells, can initiate malignant cell transformation and these transformed cells formed tumors in vivo. However, cancer cell exosomes are unable to transform cells alone or to act as a promoter of cell transformation. Utilizing proteomics and exome sequencing, we discovered cancer cell exosomes act as an initiator by inducing random mutations in recipient cells. Cells from the pool of randomly mutated cells are driven to transformation by a classic promoter resulting in foci, each of which encode a unique genetic profile. Our studies describe a novel molecular understanding of how cancer cell exosomes contribute to cell transformation.