Going circular: history, present, and future of circRNAs in cancer

Oncogene. 2023 Sep;42(38):2783-2800. doi: 10.1038/s41388-023-02780-w. Epub 2023 Aug 16.


To date, thousands of highly abundant and conserved single-stranded RNA molecules shaped into ring structures (circRNAs) have been identified. CircRNAs are multifunctional molecules that have been shown to regulate gene expression transcriptionally and post-transcriptionally and exhibit distinct tissue- and development-specific expression patterns associated with a variety of normal and disease conditions, including cancer pathogenesis. Over the past years, due to their intrinsic stability and resistance to ribonucleases, particular attention has been drawn to their use as reliable diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers in cancer diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. However, there are some critical caveats to their utility in the clinic. Their circular shape limits their annotation and a complete functional elucidation is lacking. This makes their detection and biomedical application still challenging. Herein, we review the current knowledge of circRNA biogenesis and function, and of their involvement in tumorigenesis and potential utility in cancer-targeted therapy.

Publication types

  • Review
  • 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

  • Carcinogenesis
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA, Circular* / genetics


  • RNA, Circular
  • RNA