Circular RNAs: A novel type of biomarker and genetic tools in cancer

Yi-Neng Han, Sheng-Qiang Xia, Yuan-Yuan Zhang, Jun-Hua Zheng and Wei Li _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:64551-64563. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.18350

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Yi-Neng Han1, Sheng-Qiang Xia2,4, Yuan-Yuan Zhang3,4, Jun-Hua Zheng5 and Wei Li3,4

1Department of Stomatology, Shanghai Tenth People’s Hospital, Tongji University, Shanghai, 200072, China

2Odense University Hospital, Department of Nephrology, University of Southern Denmark, Institute for Molecular Medicine, Cardiovascular and Renal Research Institute of Clinical Research, Odense, 999017, Denmark

3Wake Forest Institute For Regenerative Medicine, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, NC, 27103, USA

4Department of Urology, Shanghai Tenth People’s Hospital, Tongji University, Shanghai, 200072, China

5Department of Urology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University Affiliated First People’s Hospital, Shanghai, 200080, China

Correspondence to:

Wei Li, email: [email protected]

Jun-Hua Zheng, email: [email protected]

Keywords: circular RNAs, cancer, microRNA sponges, gene transcription, biomarkers

Received: February 21, 2017     Accepted: May 23, 2017     Published: June 02, 2017


Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are a novel type of universal and diverse endogenous noncoding RNAs (ncRNAs) and they form a covalently closed continuous loop without 5′ or 3’ tails unlike linear RNAs. Most circRNAs are presented with characteristics of abundance, stability, conservatism, and often exhibiting tissue/developmental-stage-specific expression. CircRNAs are generated either from exons or introns by back splicing or lariat introns. CircRNAs play important roles as miRNA sponges, gene transcription and expression regulators, RNA-binding protein (RBP) sponges and protein/peptide translators. Emerging evidence revealed the function of circRNAs in cancer and may potentially serve as a required novel biomarker and therapeutic target for cancer treatment. In this review, we discuss about the origins, characteristics and functions of circRNA and how they work as miRNA sponges, gene transcription and expression regulators, RBP sponges in cancer as well as current research methods of circRNAs, providing evidence for the significance of circRNAs in cancer diagnosis and clinical treatment.

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