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Understanding the Role of Circular RNAs in Cancer: A Pathway to Potential Therapies

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Dr. Jessica Nelson
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Understanding the Role of Circular RNAs in Cancer: A Pathway to Potential Therapies

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As our understanding of the human genome continues to evolve, the role of circular RNAs (circRNAs) in various biological processes is gathering significant attention. These non-coding RNAs are increasingly recognized for their crucial involvement in cellular functions and disease pathologies, including cancer. This article delves into the molecular functions of circRNAs, their influence on cancer hallmarks, particularly in thyroid cancers, and their potential as therapeutic targets.

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The Biological Roles of Circular RNAs

Circular RNAs are a type of long noncoding RNA that are highly conserved throughout evolution and exhibit differential expression patterns in various tissue types in multiple diseases. They have critical biological roles, from acting as microRNA sponges to providing templates for protein translation. Dysregulated circRNA expression has been linked to the emergence of various cancer types, suggesting their crucial role in cancer pathogenesis.

Circular RNAs and Cancer Hallmarks

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In cancer, circRNAs are known to influence several key hallmarks such as sustained proliferative signaling, evading growth suppressors, and activating invasion and metastasis. For instance, the overexpression of circXRN2 has been found to significantly increase in colorectal cancer (CRC) tissues and cells, promoting proliferation and metastasis. CircXRN2 acts as a sponge for miR-149-5p, post-transcriptionally regulating the expression of ENC1, and inhibiting key proteins involved in the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) process. This highlights the potential of circRNAs as both biomarkers and therapeutic targets in cancer.

Circular RNAs as Potential Biomarkers and Therapeutic Targets

Given the role of circRNAs in cancer pathogenesis, they are emerging as potential biomarkers for early cancer identification and prognosis. For example, a study analyzing ALS patient samples identified 92 differentially expressed circRNAs across spinal cord tissues, with the aim of identifying specific circRNAs with biomarker potential. The study also found evidence for differential expression of 37 linear RNAs possibly due to miRNA sequestration by circRNAs, thus revealing their potential as novel biomarkers and therapeutic candidates for ALS.

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Moreover, the crosstalk between m6A modification and non coding RNAs, including circRNAs, in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a testament to their implications in cancer progression, prognosis, and treatment. The m6A modification plays a pivotal role in regulating RNA metabolism and gene expression, and its interaction with non coding RNAs, such as miRNAs and lncRNAs, underscores the significance of understanding the regulatory mechanisms of the m6A ncRNA axis for developing prognostic tools and therapeutic targets for HCC.

Future Perspectives

While the studies discussed provide significant insights into the role of circRNAs in cancer, much remains to be explored. The mechanisms by which circRNAs regulate key cancer-related pathways and genes need further research. Moreover, the potential therapeutic strategies harnessing the power of circRNAs warrant more in-depth investigation. As we continue to unravel the complex molecular landscape of cancer, circRNAs hold promising potential for advancing our understanding and offering transformative solutions for cancer diagnosis, prognosis, and therapy.

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