• Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor expressing extracellular vesicles and their role in cancer progression

    Thomas Frawley is funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC) and the National Children’s Research Centre through the IRC Enterprise Partnership Postgraduate scheme to undertake a PhD under the supervision of Dr. Olga Piskareva (Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland). His PhD project is focussed on understanding the role extracellular vesicles (small sub-cellular particles released by cells that are involved in processes such as cell to cell communication) in the development of treatment resistant neuroblastoma. Thomas is particularly interested in extracellular vesicles that express the protein Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR), as increased expression of EGFR is seen in various types of cancer.

     He recently published a review article entitled “Extracellular Vesicle Dissemination of Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor and Ligands and Its Role in Cancer Progression” in the journal “Cancers”. Read Thomas’ plain English summary of the review article below.

    A protein called epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) plays an important role in the healthy function of many different cells in the body. However, if a cell starts to make too much of this protein this can lead to cancer development. Increased EGFR can be seen in breast, lung, glioblastoma and head and neck cancers. In this review, we discuss recent discoveries showing how cancerous cells package EGFR into small parcels, called extracellular vesicles, and send these parcels to other cells. Any cell that receives this parcel will now have increased numbers of EGFR too. This process helps the cancer to spread to other parts of the body, helps it to hide from the immune system, and helps it to increase the tumour’s blood supply. In this review, we will also examine how EGFR contained in these parcels can be used to aid cancer diagnosis. Currently, a biopsy of a tumour must be surgically removed and tested for EGFR as part of the cancer diagnosis. Now researchers have shown that a simple blood test can be used to test these parcels for EGFR levels, reducing the need for invasive biopsies. Finally, we will discuss how extracellular vesicles can be used to deliver cancer drugs directly to tumour cells expressing EGFR.

    The complete publication can be found here.