Extracellular vesicles (EV) are secreted by all cell types in a tumor and its microenvironment (TME), playing an essential role in intercellular communication and the establishment of a TME favorable for tumor invasion and metastasis. They encompass a variety of vesicle populations, among them the well-known endosomal-derived small exosomes (Exo), but also larger vesicles (diameter > 100 nm) that are shed directly from the plasma membrane, the so-called microvesicles (MV). Increasing evidence suggests that MV, although biologically different, share the tumor-promoting features of Exo in the TME. Due to their larger size, they can be readily harvested from patients’ blood and characterized by routine methods such as conventional flow cytometry, exploiting the plethora of molecules expressed on their surface. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge about the biology and the composition of MV, as well as their role within the TME. We highlight not only the challenges and potential of MV as novel biomarkers for cancer, but also discuss their possible use for therapeutic intervention.
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