Long Non-Coding RNAs: Key Regulators of Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition, Tumour Drug Resistance and Cancer Stem Cells

Richard Heery, Stephen P Finn, Sinead Cuffe, Steven G Gray
Cancers 2017 April 21, 9 (4)
Epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT), the adoption by epithelial cells of a mesenchymal-like phenotype, is a process co-opted by carcinoma cells in order to initiate invasion and metastasis. In addition, it is becoming clear that is instrumental to both the development of drug resistance by tumour cells and in the generation and maintenance of cancer stem cells. EMT is thus a pivotal process during tumour progression and poses a major barrier to the successful treatment of cancer. Non-coding RNAs (ncRNA) often utilize epigenetic programs to regulate both gene expression and chromatin structure. One type of ncRNA, called long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), has become increasingly recognized as being both highly dysregulated in cancer and to play a variety of different roles in tumourigenesis. Indeed, over the last few years, lncRNAs have rapidly emerged as key regulators of EMT in cancer. In this review, we discuss the lncRNAs that have been associated with the EMT process in cancer and the variety of molecular mechanisms and signalling pathways through which they regulate EMT, and finally discuss how these EMT-regulating lncRNAs impact on both anti-cancer drug resistance and the cancer stem cell phenotype.

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