Telomerase as tumor marker

Cancer Lett. 2003 May 15;194(2):221-33. doi: 10.1016/s0304-3835(02)00709-7.


Telomerase, a critical enzyme responsible for continuous cell growth, is repressed in most somatic cells except proliferating progenitor cells and activated lymphocytes, and activated in approximately 85% of human cancer tissues. Telomerase activity is a useful cancer-cell detecting marker in some types of cancers in which almost all cases show telomerase activation. In other types in which telomerase becomes upregulated according to tumor progression, it is a useful prognostic indicator. Detection of human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT) mRNA or protein in various clinical samples is also applicable. However, careful attention should be paid to the false negative results due to the instability of this enzyme or hTERT mRNA and the existence of polymerase chain reaction inhibitors as well as the false-positive results due to the contamination by normal cells with telomerase activity. If these pitfalls are avoided, in situ detection of hTERT mRNA or protein will facilitate the reliability of telomerase as a tumor marker.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Telomerase / genetics
  • Telomerase / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Telomerase