Non-Coding Variants in Cancer: Mechanistic Insights and Clinical Potential for Personalized Medicine

Noncoding RNA. 2021 Aug 2;7(3):47. doi: 10.3390/ncrna7030047.


The cancer genome is characterized by extensive variability, in the form of Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) or structural variations such as Copy Number Alterations (CNAs) across wider genomic areas. At the molecular level, most SNPs and/or CNAs reside in non-coding sequences, ultimately affecting the regulation of oncogenes and/or tumor-suppressors in a cancer-specific manner. Notably, inherited non-coding variants can predispose for cancer decades prior to disease onset. Furthermore, accumulation of additional non-coding driver mutations during progression of the disease, gives rise to genomic instability, acting as the driving force of neoplastic development and malignant evolution. Therefore, detection and characterization of such mutations can improve risk assessment for healthy carriers and expand the diagnostic and therapeutic toolbox for the patient. This review focuses on functional variants that reside in transcribed or not transcribed non-coding regions of the cancer genome and presents a collection of appropriate state-of-the-art methodologies to study them.

Keywords: CNVs; SNPs; cancer; lncRNAs; miRNAs; non-coding variability.

Publication types

  • Review