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Variations in telomere maintenance and the role of telomerase inhibition in gastrointestinal cancer.

Authors: Steffen S. Heeg
Published: 12/04/2015, Pharmacogenomics and personalized medicine


Immortalization is an important step toward the malignant transformation of human cells and is critically dependent upon telomere maintenance. There are two known mechanisms to maintain human telomeres. The process of telomere maintenance is either mediated through activation of the enzyme telomerase or through an alternative mechanism of telomere lengthening called ALT. While 85% of all human tumors show reactivation of telomerase, the remaining 15% are able to maintain telomeres via ALT. The therapeutic potential of telomerase inhibitors is currently investigated in a variety of human cancers. Gastrointestinal tumors are highly dependent on telomerase as a mechanism of telomere maintenance, rendering telomeres as well as telomerase potential targets for cancer therapy. This article focuses on the molecular mechanisms of telomere biology and telomerase activation in gastrointestinal cancers and reviews strategies of telomerase inhibition and their potential therapeutic use in these tumor entities.

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