(1) Center for Theoretical Biological Physics, Rice University, Houston, TX 77005-1827, USA
(2) School of Physics and Astronomy,Tel-Aviv University, Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel.
The complex interplay of cancer with the immune system is probably the most challenging aspect of tumorigenesis. It is not clear how cancer can thrive in the body while evading and deceiving both innate and adaptive immune responses. Moreover, sometimes the immune system is even tricked into promoting cancer development. I discuss the exosome-based interplay between cancer and the immune system. First I will start with a short introduction to exosomes - small vesicles (30–200 nm) that mediate local and systemic cell communication through the horizontal transfer of information, such as combinations of proteins, prion-like proteins, microRNAs and segments of mRNAs and DNAs. Membrane markers assign the exosomes to specific targeted cells. Upon entering the target cell, the exosomes can induce identity switch (phenotypic, epigenetic and even genetic). The exosomes are employed most extensively by the CNS and the immune system – the body’s two main information processing cognitive systems. I will then present a new picture that cancer, like bacteria and the immune system, is a networked society of smart cells, propose to view the cancer-immunity interplay as a cyberwar between two smart societies, and will explain the crucial role of exosomes in this war. For example, dendritic cell exosomes can directly kill tumor cells and activate natural killer cells; or cancer exosomes can inhibit differentiation and maturation of bone marrow dendritic cells. I will also discuss the role of mitochondria and what we can learn from bacteria about the cancer-immunity cyberwar.