NEW YORK (GenomeWeb) – The National Institutes of Health announced that it is seeking grant applications for projects investigating the potential of exosomes and extracellular vesicles (EVs), as well as their cargo, as biomarkers for cancer risk assessment, detection, diagnosis, and prognosis.
Cancer cells are known to release more exosomes than normal cells, and data indicate that tumor-secreted exosomes can promote tumor progression, survival, invasion, and angiogenesis. As such, the analysis of exosomes isolated from the blood or other body fluids of cancer patients could provide insight on cancer cell biology and serve as non-invasive predictive biomarkers for early detection, progression, and metastasis, the NIH said.
However, the clinical use of exosomes and other EVs is hampered by a lack of robust and reproducible methods for isolating a pure vesicular population. "There is a lack of clear consensus for an optimal method of isolation of pure exosomal population that is devoid of contamination with similar sized microvesicles of different origins," the agency noted
To address this issue, the NIH has issued two related funding opportunities to support efforts to develop methods to isolate exosomes and other EVs, and to characterize their cargo. Also included are projects developing sets of standards for evaluating exosome cargo, as well as computational tools and algorithms for integrating data on such cargo.
The NIH said it is also seeking applications for studies developing and testing biomarkers and imaging methods for the improved detection of early stages of cancer; and ones predicting preneoplastic lesion progression and monitoring therapeutic interventions.
Research topics appropriate for these funding opportunities include, but are not limited to, the development of studies comparing methodologies used for exosome isolation; the development of cancer-specific markers within exosomes; and the development of studies to compare data discovered from the characterization of exosome-derived cargo.
"The quality of exosomes used to conduct research is critical to the ability to reproduce the results," the NIH said. "It is therefore expected the applicants will propose study designs … to ensure exosome identity and validity for use in the proposed studies."
The total amount of grant money available under these funding opportunities is contingent on NIH appropriations and the submission of a sufficient number of meritorious applications.