Long non-coding RNAs in lung cancer: implications for lineage plasticity-mediated TKI resistance

Lung Cancer

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2020 Nov 10. doi: 10.1007/s00018-020-03691-9. Online ahead of print.


The efficacy of targeted therapy in non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) has been impeded by various mechanisms of resistance. Besides the mutations in targeted oncogenes, reversible lineage plasticity has recently considered to play a role in the development of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKI) resistance in NSCLC. Lineage plasticity enables cells to transfer from one committed developmental pathway to another, and has been a trigger of tumor adaptation to adverse microenvironment conditions

including exposure to various therapies. More importantly, besides somatic mutation, lineage plasticity has also been proposed as another source of intratumoural heterogeneity. Lineage plasticity can drive NSCLC cells to a new cell identity which no longer depends on the drug-targeted pathway. Histological transformation and epithelial-mesenchymal transition are two well-known pathways of lineage plasticity-mediated TKI resistance in NSCLC. In the last decade, increased re-biopsy practice upon disease recurrence has increased the recognition of lineage plasticity induced resistance in NSCLC and has improved our understanding of the underlying biology. Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), the dark matter of the genome, are capable of regulating variant malignant processes of NSCLC like the invisible hands. Recent evidence suggests that lncRNAs are involved in TKI resistance in NSCLC, particularly in lineage plasticity-mediated resistance. In this review, we summarize the mechanisms of lncRNAs in regulating lineage plasticity and TKI resistance in NSCLC. We also discuss how understanding these themes can alter therapeutic strategies, including combination therapy approaches to overcome TKI resistance.