DNA G-quadruplexes, telomere-specific proteins and telomere-associated enzymes as potential targets for new anticancer drugs

Invest New Drugs. 2000 May;18(2):123-37. doi: 10.1023/a:1006373812586.


Telomeres and telomerase have been subjects to a tremendous attention from scientists and oncologists during the past 5 years. This interest has been motivated by the potential of telomerase as a tumor marker for the diagnosis and the prognosis of cancer. The possible use of telomerase or telomeres as new targets for anticancer drugs also triggered investigations. The expression of telomerase was found in overall 85% of cancers. Telomerase is early expressed during oncogenesis with a gradient indicating that a high level of telomerase expression could be associated with a bad prognosis. Therefore, drugs targeting telomerase and telomeres might be useful in many human tumors with little restrictions regarding the tumor type or on the stage of the disease. Moreover, since telomerase is not or slightly expressed in normal cells, it has been postulated that drugs targeting telomerase would induce low toxicity. The race for the discovery of telomerase inhibitors has started while the identification of the components controlling telomerase, telomeres, cell survival, senescence, and apoptosis was still in progress. The recent identification of components regulating telomere length and telomerase expression (TRF1, TRF2, and tankyrase) opened a variety of new opportunities to control telomerase/telomere interactions. Meanwhile, a proof of principle was provided that changing telomere interactions with telomere binding proteins by chemical or biological means can induce cancer cell death. Interestingly, recent data challenge the old paradigm which suggested that a long exposure to telomerase and telomere inhibitors is necessary to induce anticancer effects. In this paper, we review the most recent information concerning the regulation of telomere length and telomerase expression, with emphasis on mechanisms that might translate into new drug discovery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA / chemistry*
  • DNA / genetics
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism*
  • Telomere / drug effects
  • Telomere / enzymology
  • Telomere / genetics
  • Telomere / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • DNA