Exosomes comprise a subtype of extracellular vesicles involved in cell-to-cell communication, specifically by transporting biological molecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids, to either local or more distant recipient cells, thus triggering distinct biological behaviors. Included in the exosome cargo is frequently a wide range of proteolytic enzymes, such as the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), the disintegrin and metalloproteinases (ADAMs), and the ADAM with thrombospondin-like motifs (ADAMTSs), whose functions contribute to the development and progression of cancer. In recent years, extensive research on the potential use of exosomes in diagnostic and therapeutic applications for personalized medicine has emerged, but the targeting of the proteolytic cargo of exosomes has not been fully exploited in this direction. In this review, we aim to explore both the mechanistic and the translational importance of proteolytic enzymes carried by the tumor cell–derived exosomes, as well as their role in the acquisition and support of certain hallmarks of cancer.
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