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Clin Cancer Res. 2007 Sep 1;13(17):4960-3.

Targeting the limitless replicative potential of cancer: the telomerase/telomere pathway.

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Cancer Research Technology Development Laboratory, Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research, University College London, London, United Kingdom.


The maintenance of telomeric DNA underlies the ability of tumors to possess unlimited replicative potential, one of the hallmarks of cancer. Telomere length and structure are maintained by the reverse transcriptase telomerase and a multiprotein telomere complex termed shelterin. Telomerase activity is elevated in the vast majority of tumors, and telomeres are critically shortened in tumors versus normal tissues, thus providing a compelling rationale to target the telomerase/telomere pathway for broad-spectrum cancer therapy. This strategy is supported by a variety of genetic-based target validation studies. Both telomerase inhibitors and telomere interactive molecules have shown stand-alone antitumor activity at nontoxic doses against a variety of human tumor xenografts in mice. These translational advances have resulted in the first antitelomerase agent, the oligonucleotide-based GRN163L targeting the telomerase RNA template, entering clinical evaluation. Additional translational approaches, such as targeting telomeres using G-quadruplex ligands, should result in antitelomere agents, such as RHPS4, entering the clinic in the near future. These prototype trials will be extremely informative in determining the role of the telomerase/telomere pathway in clinical oncology and, moreover, whether drugs targeting the unlimited replicative potential of cancer will find a place in cancer chemotherapy.

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