The Application of Long-Read Sequencing to Cancer

Cancers (Basel). 2024 Mar 25;16(7):1275. doi: 10.3390/cancers16071275.


Cancer is a multifaceted disease arising from numerous genomic aberrations that have been identified as a result of advancements in sequencing technologies. While next-generation sequencing (NGS), which uses short reads, has transformed cancer research and diagnostics, it is limited by read length. Third-generation sequencing (TGS), led by the Pacific Biosciences and Oxford Nanopore Technologies platforms, employs long-read sequences, which have marked a paradigm shift in cancer research. Cancer genomes often harbour complex events, and TGS, with its ability to span large genomic regions, has facilitated their characterisation, providing a better understanding of how complex rearrangements affect cancer initiation and progression. TGS has also characterised the entire transcriptome of various cancers, revealing cancer-associated isoforms that could serve as biomarkers or therapeutic targets. Furthermore, TGS has advanced cancer research by improving genome assemblies, detecting complex variants, and providing a more complete picture of transcriptomes and epigenomes. This review focuses on TGS and its growing role in cancer research. We investigate its advantages and limitations, providing a rigorous scientific analysis of its use in detecting previously hidden aberrations missed by NGS. This promising technology holds immense potential for both research and clinical applications, with far-reaching implications for cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Keywords: cancer; long reads; precision oncology; short reads; third-generation sequencing.

Publication types

  • Review

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.