Role of RNA modifications in cancer

Nat Rev Cancer. 2020 Jun;20(6):303-322. doi: 10.1038/s41568-020-0253-2. Epub 2020 Apr 16.


Specific chemical modifications of biological molecules are an efficient way of regulating molecular function, and a plethora of downstream signalling pathways are influenced by the modification of DNA and proteins. Many of the enzymes responsible for regulating protein and DNA modifications are targets of current cancer therapies. RNA epitranscriptomics, the study of RNA modifications, is the new frontier of this arena. Despite being known since the 1970s, eukaryotic RNA modifications were mostly identified on transfer RNA and ribosomal RNA until the last decade, when they have been identified and characterized on mRNA and various non-coding RNAs. Increasing evidence suggests that RNA modification pathways are also misregulated in human cancers and may be ideal targets of cancer therapy. In this Review we highlight the RNA epitranscriptomic pathways implicated in cancer, describing their biological functions and their connections to the disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Epigenesis, Genetic / genetics*
  • Epigenesis, Genetic / physiology
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism*
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional / genetics
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional / physiology*
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA