Objective: To evaluate the clinical significance of telomerase activity, particularly in terms of prognostic impact, in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Summary background data: Telomerase activity has been found in various tissues. The activation of telomerase is considered necessary for the immortalization of human tumor cells, including NSCLC.
Methods: The authors studied 103 NSCLC specimens using a polymerase chain reaction based on a telomeric repeat amplification protocol assay.
Results: Telomerase activity was detected in 85 (82.5%) of 103 NSCLC specimens but in none of the paired normal lung tissue specimens. More cases of positive telomerase activity were observed in the group with advanced disease and in the group with poorly differentiated tumors. Such factors as the mean age at surgery, sex, smoking, histologic type, and size of tumor extension did not correlate with the telomerase activity. The Kaplan-Meier survival curves in all patients with NSCLC demonstrated that patients with telomerase-positive tumors survived for a significantly shorter period than those with a telomerase-negative tumor (p = 0.0058). According to a multivariate analysis, telomerase activity was identified as an independent prognostic factor (RR = 8.62, p = 0.035).
Conclusions: Telomerase activity was one of the most important prognostic factors in patients with NSCLC, and its potential prognostic implication was independent of tumor stage.