Roles of telomeres and telomerase in cancer, and advances in telomerase-targeted therapies

Mohammad A. Jafri, Shakeel A. Ansari, Mohammed H. Alqahtani, Jerry W. Shay

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

143 Scopus citations

Abstract

Telomeres maintain genomic integrity in normal cells, and their progressive shortening during successive cell divisions induces chromosomal instability. In the large majority of cancer cells, telomere length is maintained by telomerase. Thus, telomere length and telomerase activity are crucial for cancer initiation and the survival of tumors. Several pathways that regulate telomere length have been identified, and genome-scale studies have helped in mapping genes that are involved in telomere length control. Additionally, genomic screening for recurrent human telomerase gene hTERT promoter mutations and mutations in genes involved in the alternative lengthening of telomeres pathway, such as ATRX and DAXX, has elucidated how these genomic changes contribute to the activation of telomere maintenance mechanisms in cancer cells. Attempts have also been made to develop telomere length- and telomerase-based diagnostic tools and anticancer therapeutics. Recent efforts have revealed key aspects of telomerase assembly, intracellular trafficking and recruitment to telomeres for completing DNA synthesis, which may provide novel targets for the development of anticancer agents. Here, we summarize telomere organization and function and its role in oncogenesis. We also highlight genomic mutations that lead to reactivation of telomerase, and mechanisms of telomerase reconstitution and trafficking that shed light on its function in cancer initiation and tumor development. Additionally, recent advances in the clinical development of telomerase inhibitors, as well as potential novel targets, will be summarized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number69
JournalGenome Medicine
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 20 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology
  • Molecular Medicine

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