The epitranscriptome represents the more than 140 types of chemically varying and reversable RNA modifications affecting RNA fate. Among these, the most relevant for this review are the mRNA modifications N6-methyladenosine and N6,2′-O-dimethyladenosine. Epitranscriptomic mRNA biology involves RNA methyltransferases (so-called “writers”), RNA demethylases (“erasers”), and RNA-binding proteins (“readers”) that interact with methylation sites to determine the functional outcome of the modification. In this review, we discuss the role of a specific RNA demethylase encoded by the fat mass and obesity–associated gene (FTO) in cancer. FTO initially became known as the strongest genetic link for human obesity. Only in 2010, 16 years after its discovery, was its enzymatic function as a demethylase clarified, and only recently has its role in the development of cancer been revealed. FTO functions are challenging to study and interpret because of its genome-wide effects on transcript turnover and translation. We review the discovery of FTO and its enzymatic function, the tumor-promoting and suppressive roles of FTO in selected cancer types, and its potential as a therapeutic target.

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