, Volume 45, Issue 1–2, pp 61–74 | Cite as

Telomerase detection in the diagnosis and prognosis of cancer

  • Eiso HiyamaEmail author
  • Keiko Hiyama


Telomerase, a critical enzyme responsible ‘for cellular immortality, is usually repressed in somatic cells except for lymphocytes and self-renewal cells, but is activated in approximately 85% of human cancer tissues. The human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) is the catalytic component of human telomerase. In cancers in which telomerase activation occurs at the early stages of the disease, telomerase activity and hTERT expression are useful markers for the detection of cancer cells. In other cancers in which telomerase becomes upregulated upon tumor progression, they are useful as prognostic indicators. However, careful attention should be paid to false–negative results caused by the instability of telomerase and of the hTERT mRNA and the presence of PCR inhibitors, as well as to false–positive results caused by the presence of alternatively spliced hTERT mRNA and normal cells with telomerase activity. Recently, methods for the in situ detection of the hTERT mRNA and protein have been developed. These methods should facilitate the unequivocal detection of cancer cells, even in tissues containing a background of normal telomerase-positive cells.


Cytology Diagnosis Fine needle aspiration hTERT Human telomerase reverse transcriptase Immunohistochemistry in situ hybridization Prognosis Telomerase Telomeric repeat amplification protocol TRAP 



bronchoalveolar lavage


fine needle aspiration




in situ hybridization


human telomerase reverse transcriptase


human telomerase RNA


telomeric repeat amplification protocol


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Natural Science Center for Basic Research and Development, RIRBMHiroshima UniversityHiroshimaJapan
  2. 2.Department of Translational Cancer Research, RIRBMHiroshima UniversityHiroshimaJapan

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