Telomerase inhibitors for the treatment of cancer: the current perspective

Expert Opin Investig Drugs. 2001 Dec;10(12):2141-56. doi: 10.1517/13543784.10.12.2141.


Telomerase is a holoenzyme responsible for the maintenance of telomeres, the protein-nucleic acid complexes at the ends of eukaryotic chromosomes that serve to maintain chromosomal stability and integrity. Telomerase activity is essential for the sustained proliferation of most immortal cells, including cancer cells. Since the discovery that telomerase activity is detected in 85-90% of all human tumours and tumour-derived cell lines but not in most normal somatic cells, telomerase has become the focus of much attention as a novel and potentially highly-specific target for the development of new anticancer chemotherapeutics. Herein we review the current perspective for the development of telomerase inhibitors as cancer chemotherapeutics. These include antisense strategies, reverse transcriptase inhibitors and compounds capable of interacting with high-order telomeric DNA tetraplex ("G-quadruplex") structures, so as to prevent enzyme access to the necessary linear telomere substrate. Critical appraisal of each individual approach is provided together with highlighted areas of likely future development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Telomerase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Telomere / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Telomerase