Clinical and Translational Oncology

, Volume 20, Issue 9, pp 1109–1116 | Cite as

Circular RNAs and exosomes in cancer: a mysterious connection

  • J. Hou
  • W. Jiang
  • L. Zhu
  • S. Zhong
  • H. Zhang
  • J. Li
  • S. Zhou
  • S. Yang
  • Y. He
  • D. Wang
  • X. Chen
  • F. Deng
  • Q. Zhang
  • J. Wang
  • J. Hu
  • W. Zhang
  • L. Ding
  • J. ZhaoEmail author
  • J. TangEmail author
Review Article


Circular RNAs (CircRNAs) are a type of non-coding RNAs (NcRNAs) with a closed annular structure. Until next-generation sequencing (NGS) is developed, the misunderstanding of circRNAs ‘splicing error’ has changed, and the mysterious veil of circRNAs has been revealed. NGS provides an approach to investigate circRNAs. Many scholars point out that circRNAs may play an important role in many diseases, especially cancer. At the same time, exosomes, as a kind of extracellular vesicles loaded with many contents, are a hotspot in recent years. They can act as ‘messengers’ between cells, especially in cancer. Lately, it is interesting circRNAs are enriched and stable in exosomes, also called exo-circRNAs, and there have been several articles on circRNAs associated with exosomes. In this review, we summarize the characteristics of circRNAs, especially its main functions. Then, we briefly introduce exosomes and their function in cancer. Finally, the known relation between circRNAs and exosomes is discussed. With further researches, exo-circRNAs may be a novel pathway for cancer diagnosis and targeted therapy.


Circular RNAs CircRNAs Exosomes Extracellular vesicles Non-coding RNAs Cancer 



We thank the members of our laboratory for support and advice. Jun-chen Hou and Wen Jiang contributed equally to this work and should be considered co-first authors.


This research was supported by the National Program on Key Research Project (No. 2016YFC0905900), Medical Training Programme Foundation for the Talents by Jiangsu Provincial Department of health (No. 17 [2016]), the 333 Talent Project of Jiangsu Province, top-level (No. 4 [2016]), the National key clinical specialist construction Programs of China (No. 544 [2013]), Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province (No. BK20151579), A Project Funded by the Priority Academic Program Development of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions (PAPD, JX10231802), the Key Research Program for the Social Development of Jiangsu Province, China (BE2015718) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (grant number 81602551).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The author declares that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

There are no human and animal in this study.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Federación de Sociedades Españolas de Oncología (FESEO) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The First Clinical School of Nanjing Medical UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Reproductive MedicineNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Center of Clinical Laboratory ScienceJiangsu Cancer Hospital and Jiangsu Institute of Cancer Research and Nanjing Medical University Affiliated Cancer HospitalNanjingChina
  4. 4.Department of General SurgeryJiangsu Cancer Hospital and Jiangsu Institute of Cancer Research and Nanjing Medical University Affiliated Cancer HospitalNanjingChina
  5. 5.Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine-Xianlin CampusNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  6. 6.Department of General SurgeryJiangsu Province HospitalNanjing CityPeople’s Republic of China
  7. 7.Department of General SurgeryZhong Da Hospital Southeast UniversityNanjingPeople’s Republic of China
  8. 8.Jiangsu Province HospitalNanjingPeople’s Republic of China

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