Telomerase activity and human telomerase reverse transcriptase mRNA expression are correlated with clinical aggressiveness in soft tissue tumors

Cancer. 2002 Sep 1;95(5):1127-33. doi: 10.1002/cncr.10793.


Background: Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein enzyme that extends telomere specific repeats on the ends of chromosomes. Telomerase activity has been detected frequently in various types of human tumors and has been associated with cell immortality and oncogenesis. Human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT), a telomerase catalytic subunit, reportedly regulates telomerase activity. Little is known about telomerase activity and hTERT mRNA expression in soft tissue tumors. The objective of this study was to clarify the correlation between these two parameters and clinical aggressiveness in soft tissue tumors.

Methods: In 41 surgically resected soft tissue tumors, telomerase activity was measured by the fluorescence-based telomeric repeat-amplification protocol and hTERT mRNA expression was determined by real-time polymerase chain reaction.

Results: Telomerase activity was detected in 52% of sarcomas and in none of the benign soft tissue tumors (P < 0.05). Telomerase activity was found in 77% of 13 locally recurrent sarcomas and in 89% of 9 sarcomas with distant metastasis. The frequency of the presence of telomerase activity in those tumors was significantly greater compared with the frequency of telomerase activity in the other sarcomas (P < 0.05 and P < 0.01, respectively). All telomerase positive sarcomas expressed hTERT mRNA. The mean level of hTERT mRNA expression in sarcomas was significantly greater compared with the mean hTERT mRNA expression level in benign tumors (P < 0.05) and in locally recurrent sarcomas compared with primary sarcomas (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: The results of the current study suggest that the detection of telomerase activity and the level of hTERT mRNA expression are useful markers for evaluating the clinical aggressiveness in soft tissue tumors.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / analysis*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis*
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prognosis
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Sarcoma / genetics
  • Sarcoma / pathology*
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / genetics
  • Soft Tissue Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Telomerase / analysis
  • Telomerase / biosynthesis*
  • Telomerase / pharmacology*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Telomerase