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Anticancer Res. 1996 Jan-Feb;16(1):511-5.

Telomeres, telomerase and cancer: is the magic bullet real?

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Division of Oncology, Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc, Nutley, New Jersey 07110, USA.


Nature recruited telomerase to compensate for the incomplete replication of chromosomal ends (telomeres). In higher organisms, telomeres are eroded at each cell division. Cancer cells frequently show chromosomal instability resulting in ring chromosomes, telomeric associations, and dicentric chromosomes. As a consequence of telomeric erosion, the ribonucleoprotein complex termed "telomerase" is reactive in a subpopulation of cells. Telomerase adds a hexameric repeat of the sequence 5' TTAGGG 3' to the ends of the chromosomes and hence stabilizes the telomeric length. Telomerase is active in vertebrates mostly in germ cells and the early stage embryo but is inactivated or repressed in somatic cells. Detection of telomerase activity in the overwhelming majority of advanced and metastatic human cancers but not in most somatic cells implies that telomerase-dependent immortalization could contribute to the malignancy. Future studies on the expression and regulation of the individual components of telomerase may enable us to clarify the diagnostic and therapeutic potential of telomerase in cancer.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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