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Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2005 May;54(2):85-93.

Telomerase: regulation, function and transformation.

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Department of Medical Oncology, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, 44 Binney Street, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Work from several laboratories over the past decade indicates that the acquisition of constitutive telomerase expression is a critical step during the malignant transformation of human cells. Normal human cells transiently express low levels of telomerase, the ribonucleoprotein responsible for extending and maintaining telomeres, and exhibit telomere shortening after extended passage, whereas most cancers exhibit constitutive telomerase expression and maintain telomeres at stable lengths. These observations establish a direct connection between immortalization and stabilization of telomere structure. However, recent work suggests that telomerase also contributes to cancer development beyond its role in maintaining stable telomere lengths. In this review, we summarize recent observations that support the concept that telomerase plays multiple roles in facilitating human cell transformation.

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