Background: Telomerase, a ribonucleoprotein enzyme that functions in the maintenance of telomeres (specialized structures at the ends of chromosomes), has been reported to be a novel diagnostic marker for malignant diseases. We sought to determine whether measurement of telomerase activity in bronchial washings is of value in the diagnosis of lung cancer. Methods: Extracts of cells in bronchial washings were analyzed for telomerase activity by use of a telomeric repeat amplification protocol (TRAP) assay. Telomerase activity inside cells was evaluated by use of an in situ TRAP assay. The results of both TRAP assays were compared with those obtained from cytologic examination, which employed standard Papanicolaou staining. Results: When results from the two TRAP assays were combined, telomerase activity was detected in bronchial washings from 18 (82%; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 60%-95%) of 22 patients with lung cancer. In contrast, cancer cells were detected by cytologic examination in the bronchial washings of nine (41%; 95% CI = 21%-64%) of the same 22 patients, a statistically significant difference (two-sided P = .0061). In patients with lung cancer, telomerase-positive cells could be detected in bronchial washings irrespective of tumor location - 11 of 14 (79%; 95% CI = 49%-95%) peripheral cancerous lesions and seven of eight (88%; 95% CI = 47%-100%) central cancerous lesions were detected by use of TRAP assays (for comparison, two-sided P =.5349). Conclusions: A high percentage of patients with lung cancers had detectable telomerase activity in bronchial washings. Thus, the use of a cell extract-based or an in situ TRAP assay in addition to cytologic examination may make the diagnosis of lung cancer more reliable.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research