hTERT expression in human breast cancer and non-cancerous breast tissue: correlation with tumour stage and c-Myc expression

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 2003 Feb;77(3):277-84. doi: 10.1023/a:1021849217054.


Telomerase is a ribonucleoprotein enzyme that synthesises telomeres after cell division and maintains chromosomal length and stability thus leading to cellular immortalisation. hTERT (human telomerase reverse transcriptase) gene is the rate-limiting determinant of telomerase reactivation. The present study aims to quantitatively measure the expression of hTERT mRNA in human breast cancer, adjacent non-cancerous tissue (ANCT) and benign breast lesions, examine the association between hTERT and the clinicopathological characteristics of the cancer specimens and to explore the relationship between c-Myc and hTERT expressions. RNA was extracted from 49 breast carcinomas, 46 matched ANCT, and eight fibroadenomas. hTERT and c-Myc mRNA expressions were estimated by reverse transcriptase-PCR (RT-PCR) and Taqman methodology. hTERT mRNA was present in all of the cancerous and most of ANCT specimens with levels being much higher in the cancerous tissue than in ANCT. The ratio of hTERT mRNA in tumour to that in ANCT was 2011 (95% confidence interval 373-10,853, P < 0.0001). There was no significant association between tumour hTERT expression and patient's age, tumour size, grade, nodal metastasis, estrogen receptor (ER) positivity, lymphovascular (LVI) or c-Myc expression. However, there was a weak but significant negative correlation between hTERT expression and progesterone receptor (PR) status (p = 0.04) in tumours. hTERT mRNA expression was also significantly higher in carcinomas (median = 2.61 x 10(6)) than in fibroadenomas (median = 424).We conclude that hTERT mRNA expression is significantly higher in human breast cancer than in non-cancerous breast tissue suggesting that hTERT has a potential role in breast cancer diagnosis. The hTERT mRNA levels in tumour do not seem to be associated with the patient's age or advanced tumour stage. Furthermore, hTERT mRNA expression does not correlate with c-Myc mRNA expression in breast cancer.

MeSH terms

  • Breast / cytology
  • Breast / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic
  • DNA Primers
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genes, myc / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Telomerase / genetics*
  • Telomerase / metabolism


  • DNA Primers
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Telomerase