Therapeutic potential of FLANC, a novel primate-specific long non-coding RNA in colorectal cancer

Gut. 2020 Oct;69(10):1818-1831. doi: 10.1136/gutjnl-2019-318903. Epub 2020 Jan 27.


Objective: To investigate the function of a novel primate-specific long non-coding RNA (lncRNA), named FLANC, based on its genomic location (co-localised with a pyknon motif), and to characterise its potential as a biomarker and therapeutic target.

Design: FLANC expression was analysed in 349 tumours from four cohorts and correlated to clinical data. In a series of multiple in vitro and in vivo models and molecular analyses, we characterised the fundamental biological roles of this lncRNA. We further explored the therapeutic potential of targeting FLANC in a mouse model of colorectal cancer (CRC) metastases.

Results: FLANC, a primate-specific lncRNA feebly expressed in normal colon cells, was significantly upregulated in cancer cells compared with normal colon samples in two independent cohorts. High levels of FLANC were associated with poor survival in two additional independent CRC patient cohorts. Both in vitro and in vivo experiments demonstrated that the modulation of FLANC expression influenced cellular growth, apoptosis, migration, angiogenesis and metastases formation ability of CRC cells. In vivo pharmacological targeting of FLANC by administration of 1,2-dioleoyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphatidylcholine nanoparticles loaded with a specific small interfering RNA, induced significant decrease in metastases, without evident tissue toxicity or pro-inflammatory effects. Mechanistically, FLANC upregulated and prolonged the half-life of phosphorylated STAT3, inducing the overexpression of VEGFA, a key regulator of angiogenesis.

Conclusions: Based on our findings, we discovered, FLANC as a novel primate-specific lncRNA that is highly upregulated in CRC cells and regulates metastases formation. Targeting primate-specific transcripts such as FLANC may represent a novel and low toxic therapeutic strategy for the treatment of patients.

Keywords: angiogenesis; colorectal cancer; gene therapy; molecular genetics; oncogenes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Carcinogenesis* / drug effects
  • Carcinogenesis* / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation* / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation* / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Colorectal Neoplasms* / therapy
  • Drug Discovery
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Therapy
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic* / genetics
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic* / metabolism
  • Pharmacogenomic Testing
  • RNA, Long Noncoding* / genetics
  • RNA, Long Noncoding* / metabolism
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Genetic Markers
  • RNA, Long Noncoding
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A