Fusion RNAs are a hallmark of some cancers. They result either from chromosomal rearrangements or from splicing mechanisms that are non-chromosomal rearrangements. Chromosomal rearrangements that result in gene fusions are particularly prevalent in sarcomas and hematopoietic malignancies; they are also common in solid tumors. The splicing process can also give rise to more complex RNA patterns in cells. Gene fusions frequently affect tyrosine kinases, chromatin regulators, or transcription factors, and can cause constitutive activation, enhancement of downstream signaling, and tumor development, as major drivers of oncogenesis. In addition, some fusion RNAs have been shown to function as noncoding RNAs and to affect cancer progression. Fusion genes and RNAs will therefore become increasingly important as diagnostic and therapeutic targets for cancer development. Here, we discuss the function, biogenesis, detection, clinical relevance, and therapeutic implications of oncogenic fusion genes and RNAs in cancer development. Further understanding the molecular mechanisms that regulate how fusion RNAs form in cancers is critical to the development of therapeutic strategies against tumorigenesis.
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