A relatively well-understood multistep process enables mutation-bearing cells to form primary tumours, which later use the circulation system to colonize new locations and form metastases. However, in which way the emerging abundance of different non-coding RNAs supports tumour progression is poorly understood. Here, we review new lines of evidence linking long and short types of non-coding RNAs to signalling pathways activated in the course of cancer progression by growth factors and by the tumour micro-environment. Resolving the new dimension of non-coding RNAs in oncogenesis will probably translate to earlier detection of cancer and improved therapeutic strategies.

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