An epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition induced extracellular vesicle prognostic signature in non-small cell lung cancer

Extracellular Vesicles

Despite significant therapeutic advances, lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related death worldwide1. Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients have a very poor overall five-year survival rate of only 10–20%. Currently, TNM staging is the gold standard for predicting overall survival and selecting optimal initial treatment options for NSCLC patients, including those with curable stages of disease. However, many patients with locoregionally-confined NSCLC relapse and die despite curative-intent interventions, indicating a need for intensified, individualised therapies. Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), the phenotypic depolarisation of epithelial cells to elongated, mesenchymal cells, is associated with metastatic and treatment-refractive cancer. We demonstrate here that EMT-induced protein changes in small extracellular vesicles are detectable in NSCLC patients and have prognostic significance. Overall, this work describes a novel prognostic biomarker signature that identifies potentially-curable NSCLC patients at risk of developing metastatic NSCLC, thereby enabling implementation of personalised treatment decisions.

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Recent Publications

Cigarette smoke (CS) represents one of the most relevant environmental risk factors for several chronic pathologies. Tissue damage caused by CS exposure is mediated, at least in part, by oxidative stress induced by its toxic and pro-oxidant components. Evidence demonstrates that extracellular vesicles (EVs) released by various cell types exposed to CS extract (CSE) are characterized by altered biochemical cargo and gained pathological properties. In the present study, we evaluated the content of oxidized proteins and phospholipid fatty acid profiles of EVs released by human bronchial epithelial BEAS-2B cells treated with CSE. This specific molecular characterization has hitherto not been performed. After confirmation that CSE reduces viability of BEAS-2B cells and elevates intracellular ROS levels, in a dose-dependent manner, we demonstrated that 24 h exposure at 1% CSE, a concentration that only slight modifies cell viability but increases ROS levels, was able to increase carbonylated protein levels in cells and released EVs. The release of oxidatively modified proteins via EVs might represent a mechanism used by cells to remove toxic proteins in order to avoid their intracellular overloading. Moreover, 1% CSE induced only few changes in the fatty acid asset in BEAS-2B cell membrane phospholipids, whereas several rearrangements were observed in EVs released by CSE-treated cells. The impact of changes in acyl chain composition of CSE-EVs accounted for the increased saturation levels of phospholipids, a membrane parameter that might influence EV stability, uptake and, at least in part, EV-mediated biological effects. The present in vitro study adds new information concerning the biochemical composition of CSE-related EVs, useful to predict their biological effects on target cells. Furthermore, the information regarding the presence of oxidized proteins and the specific membrane features of CSE-related EVs can be useful to define the utilization of circulating EVs as marker for diagnosing of CS-induced lung damage and/or CS-related diseases.

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