Chapter

Telomeres and Telomerase in Cancer

Part of the series Cancer Drug Discovery and Development pp 171-180

Role of Telomeres and Telomerase in Cancer

  • Keiko HiyamaAffiliated withDepartment of Translational Cancer Research, Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine, Hiroshima University
  • , Eiso HiyamaAffiliated withNatural Science Center for Basic Research and Development, Hiroshima University
  • , Keiji TanimotoAffiliated withDepartment of Translational Cancer Research, Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine, Hiroshima University
  • , Masahiko NishiyamaAffiliated withSaitama Medical University International Medical Center

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Abstract

Cancer cells are distinguished from normal cells by two major characteristics: lack of regulation and limitation in their proliferation. The former is essential and represented as “transformed” with anchorage independency and invasive capabilities, while the latter is not a prerequisite but highly associated and represented as “immortal” concomitant with activation of telomerase. Telomerase is activated in around 80% of human cancers but not in usual somatic cells, and it is responsible for the indefinite proliferation capacity of cancer cells. Therefore, it is natural for physicians to expect telomerase to be useful as a diagnostic and therapeutic target in human cancers. In this chapter, we will overview the characteristics of telomeres and telomerase in human cancers.

Keywords

Telomere shortening Telomerase activation Cancer cell Cancer stem cell