Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) comprise a diverse class of RNA transcripts >200 nucleotides in length with limited protein-coding potential. In addition to their possible role in cancer biology, circulating lncRNAs have emerged as a new class of promising cancer biomarkers, with independent studies demonstrating the feasibility of their use as tools in the diagnosis and prognosis of different types of malignancies and for predicting and possibly monitoring treatment response. However, critical issues are represented by nonuniform sample choice, handling and processing, blood cell contamination during sample preparation and the lack of consensus regarding data normalization. Although the great potential of circulating lncRNAs as cancer biomarkers would be an important development in disease management, both intrinsic and extrinsic factors that may affect their measurement have not been fully characterized. Moreover, the clinical significance of circulating lncRNA may not be proven without a global consensus regarding procedures and standardized protocols for their detection.
Biogenesis and function of lncRNAs