Cancers claim millions of lives each year. Early detection that can enable a higher chance of cure is of paramount importance to cancer patients. However, diagnostic tools for many forms of tumors have been lacking. Over the last few years, studies of chimeric RNAs as biomarkers have emerged. Numerous reports using bioinformatics and screening methodologies have described more than 30,000 expressed sequence tags (EST) or cDNA sequences as putative chimeric RNAs. While cancer cells have been well known to contain fusion genes derived from chromosomal translocations, rearrangements or deletions, recent studies suggest that trans-splicing in cells may be another source of chimeric RNA production. Unlike cis-splicing, trans-splicing takes place between two pre-mRNA molecules, which are in most cases derived from two different genes, generating a chimeric non-co-linear RNA. It is possible that trans-splicing occurs in normal cells at high frequencies but the resulting chimeric RNAs exist only at low levels. However the levels of certain RNA chimeras may be elevated in cancers, leading to the formation of fusion genes. In light of the fact that chimeric RNAs have been shown to be overrepresented in various tumors, studies of the mechanisms that produce chimeric RNAs and identification of signature RNA chimeras as biomarkers present an opportunity for the development of diagnoses for early tumor detection.
- Chimeric RNA
- Fusion gene